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Texas Democrats Newly Skeptical Over April Primary

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Democrats suing the state over Republican-drawn voting maps expressed new doubts Wednesday that Texas could salvage an April primary as the deadline for reaching a temporary compromise creeps closer.

The Texas attorney general’s office responded by saying negotiations with all minority interests in the lawsuit continue, a day after the Texas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People indicated that the state was chiefly dealing with only two of the prominent Hispanic groups.

Fresh skepticism by Democrats over an April primary came after a Washington federal court advised Wednesday that its ruling over whether the original maps violate the Voting Rights Acts likely won’t be made for at least a month. Closing arguments in that trial were Tuesday.

Democratic state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said the chance of an April 3 primary has been reduced and that a summer primary in Texas might be more likely, absent a resolution by the litigants.

Fischer’s caucus is one of nine groups suing the state over the maps drawn last summer by the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature. They claim the maps discriminate by diluting minority voting power in a state with phenomenal Hispanic growth over the last decade.

Another federal court in San Antonio has given the minority groups and the state until Monday to reach a compromise on temporary maps that would remain in place through November’s election. If they don’t, Texas’ primaries will be pushed back for a second time. They were originally scheduled for March.

Minority groups indicated this week that talks had stalled, saying that one hurdle was that all the plaintiffs weren’t invited to participate in the discussions. A spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said Wednesday that Abbott has been personally reaching out to representatives from the black and Hispanic parties in the case.

“Our primary focus is protecting the integrity of Texas’ elections and ensuring they are based on legally constructed redistricting maps — as quickly as possible,” spokeswoman Lauren Bean said in a statement.

If a deal can’t be reached by Monday, both Democratic and Republican party leaders believe an April 17 primary is possible if the San Antonio courts could draw temporary maps by mid-February.

The Texas Democratic Party stated in a filing Wednesday that it wouldn’t oppose a split primary if the state shouldered the extra cost. In that scenario, Texas would hold an early primary for the presidential race in hopes of preserving a greater influence in the Republican nomination.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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