The Texas attorney general's office and a coalition of minority groups announced a deal Wednesday on one of three disputed electoral maps, a sign of compromise but not likely enough to prevent the state's primaries from sliding into at least May and fading from relevance in the Republican presidential race.
The two sides announced a deal on state Senate maps to a panel of federal judges during a hearing in San Antonio, but the Texas House and congressional districts remain in dispute for the 2012 elections.
The deal is short of a breakthrough, and doesn't give Texas any renewed hope that an April primary might still be possible. Elections administrators testified this week that any primary date before May 22 is nearly impossible, and the judges seemed to acknowledge those logistics.
But any compromise between the Texas attorney general and minority rights groups is significant after months legal jousting that has reached all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Yet the two sides didn't exactly come back to the bargaining table on their own terms. U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia on Tuesday night ordered them to return the next morning with a deal, sounding as though he was losing patience with weeks of stalled talks despite repeated court-ordered negotiations.
The Republican-controlled Legislature drew the disputed Senate map in a way to make sure one incumbent was not re-elected. It also divided up minority voters into districts dominated by whites, something forbidden under the Voting Rights Act.
The compromise restores the district largely to its previous boundaries with a similar racial make-up.