updated 6/30/2006 10:29:37 AM ET 2006-06-30T14:29:37

A federal panel gave both sides in Texas' redistricting fight two weeks to propose fixes to a congressional district whose borders were ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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U.S. District Judge T. John Ward said proposed changes to the map are due by July 14. Oral arguments were scheduled for Aug. 3 in Austin.

On Wednesday, The Supreme Court upheld most of the pro-Republican Texas congressional map but tossed the 23rd Congressional District, which stretches from San Antonio to Laredo and west almost to El Paso. It remanded its redrawing to a three-judge panel.

Voters' preferences
The GOP-controlled Legislature redrew the map in 2003 to put more Republicans in office. Democrats and minority groups sued the state, accusing Republicans of an unconstitutional power grab in drawing boundaries that booted four Democrats from office. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott argued that the new boundaries reflect the preferences of Texas voters.

The high court did not set a deadline for a new map, but changes would have to be made soon to be effective in the November general election.

Gov. Rick Perry said he prefers the Legislature make redistricting decisions. But Perry, who has authority to call lawmakers into session, said he would wait for the court's decision.

"To play a lot of what-ifs is not great," he said.

The court objected to 100,000 Hispanics living in Webb County being shifted into a neighboring district. Any remedy would likely require the inclusion of more Hispanics in the district and would require slight changes to surrounding districts.

"We want to be sure that Latino voters have a voice in congressional elections in this state," said Nina Perales, an attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund who argued the portion of the redistricting case that was upheld by the Supreme Court. "We're going to be proposing a plan that allows Latino voters to express their preferences in future congressional elections."

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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