"The answer is, I think, nobody knows," says Texas redistricting expert Michael Li. One factor might be the new state legislative lines, which were included in the same case as the congressional map, and another is the care that goes into voting decisions. "If you look at their Voting Rights Act opinions, a lot have been 100-, 170-page opinions," Li said. "They're also aware of controversy now about the constitutionality of the VRA, so I think they're taking their time."
Since a federal court made the interim maps, they don't need to be precleared; Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act only applies to states for congressional redistricting. So the maps are set for this year. That is not quite case for the rest of the decade.
The main obstacle for the Texas legislature's congressional plan centered in Austin, where Travis County was split five ways and some groups argued that the division intentionally kept a significant minority population from being able to elect a "candidate of choice." If the court denies preclearance based on that argument, congressional candidates running in the area could find themselves running in brand new districts again next cycle, repeating the scramble for seats as versions of interim maps changed earlier this cycle.
For example, Michael Williams and Roger Williams, two Republicans running in the new 25th District in the western part of Travis County, bounced back and forth between that district and another to the north as different maps came into effect last year. Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett, who's from Austin and represents the old 25th District, is running this year in the 35th District, which stretches down to San Antonio. Over almost two decades in Congress, Doggett has been a regular target in redistricting. "I've been in, I think, three or four different districts in the last dozen years," Doggett said.
According to Li, the preclearance decision could be coming any day now -- it's possible, cynics say, that the judges were waiting for Texas's primary to avoid controversy about whether to install yet another version of maps this year. If the judges deny preclearance, some candidates could end up fighting this cycle for territory that won't be there in the next one.