Texas asks top court to stop congressional map

WASHINGTON Wed Nov 30, 2011 6:07pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Texas asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday to stop implementation of an interim Texas map for congressional districts that was crafted by a panel of federal judges and could favor minorities and Democrats in 2012 elections.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott made the emergency request in opposing the court-drawn congressional redistricting plan. Abbott, a Republican, asked the Supreme Court on Monday to suspend maps created by the judges for 2012 state Legislature elections.

Abbott argued the federal district court panel in San Antonio erred by refusing to defer to the Legislature's plan, and that the wholesale revisions of the maps were unjustified.

The maps, which could lead to greater representation for minorities and Democrats, were drafted earlier this month after minority groups challenged the original plans adopted by the Republican-dominated state Legislature.

Rewriting the Texas districts has become a major political and legal issue because of sharp growth over the past decade in the state's population.

Texas received four new congressional seats after the 2010 U.S. census, largely because of the rapidly growing Hispanic population. The state Legislature's plan created only one new heavily Hispanic district.

The U.S. Justice Department, which determines whether new maps in some states comply with federal civil rights laws, opposed the state's congressional redistricting plan.

Abbott said the court-drawn plan dramatically changed more than half of the 150 districts in the Texas House of Representatives, altered five of 31 state Senate districts and changed all 36 congressional districts from the state's plan.

Candidates for the 2012 elections must file by December 15, 2011. The primary elections are scheduled for March 6.

"Legal, delayed elections are preferable to legally flawed, timely elections," Abbott said in asking the Supreme Court to put on hold the primary elections if necessary.

The interim maps drawn by the judges were designed to remain in place until the legal battle over the redistricting plans has been resolved.

A separate three-judge panel in Washington is expected to hold a trial in considering whether to approve or reject the redistricting plans.

The Supreme Court cases are Perry v. Perez, No 11-A520, Perry v. Davis, No. 11-A521, and Perry v. Perez, No. 11-A536.

(Reporting by James Vicini; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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