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Texas Redistricting Update
To learn more about Texas congressional redistricting, see Lone Star Project reports on:
The Texas redistricting battle opened a second front last week when the State of Texas bypassed the US Department of Justice and filed with the Federal District Court in Washington, DC to request preclearance of the Republican redistricting plans.
Section 5 of the US Voting Rights Act requires that states like Texas that have a long history of discriminating against minority voters must gain federal approval of redistricting plans before they can be implemented. Normally, however, states seek preclearance by submitting plans to the US Justice Department where their answer will come more quickly and at considerably less expense.
Sen. Davis and Rep. Veasey lead North Texas Intervenors
A group of voters from North Texas led by Senator Wendy Davis (SD10 – Fort Worth) and Representative Marc Veasey (HD95 – Fort Worth) quickly filed a motion in the same DC Court so they can present arguments demonstrating that the Texas Republican Congressional and State Senate maps violate the US Voting Rights Act. In a detailed motion, the North Texas intervenors claim that the Republican drawn map intentionally discriminates against African Americans and Hispanics by reducing their voting strength in order to increase the control of Anglo Republican voters. The Congressional and State Senate plans are particularly harmful to the North Texas region.
Why bypass DOJ?
For the first time ever, Texas Republican leaders are bypassing the Department of Justice and taking the longer, more expensive route of asking for a formal court proceeding before a three-judge panel in Washington, DC.
Two likely reasons:
- Texas Republican leaders know that formal court proceedings in DC means extensive and expensive litigation. Texas taxpayers pick up the tab for State Republican leaders, but those opposing the plan must raise the large amount of money needed.
- Bypassing the Department of Justice gives Republicans the opportunity to accuse the Obama Administration’s DOJ of being politicized. In reality, the Obama Administration’s DOJ has been extraordinarily even-handed. Ironically, it was George W. Bush’s Department of Justice that allowed Republican political appointees to overrule non-partisan DOJ voting rights experts and approve the Tom DeLay mid-decade congressional map in 2003.
What happens next?
The North Texas intervenors were the first to ask to join the litigation in opposition to Texas Republicans, but they certainly will not be the last. Over the next two weeks or so, we should expect other groups and individuals to join as well, particularly MALDEF, MALC and the NAACP.
Meanwhile back in Texas
Several redistricting cases are pending in federal courts in Texas. While no decisions on any of these cases will be made until the preclearance trial in Washington DC is completed, pre-trial work will procede. For example, depositions will be taken in San Antonio related to the cases filed there sometime in the next two weeks.
Will the Austin case be moved?
Maybe. A group of voters from Austin – and joined by the City of Austin and Travis County – filed a complaint in the federal courts in Austin against the congressional plan. Most observers expect the Austin case to be combined with the pending San Antonio cases and all will be tried in San Antonio. It is possible, however, that all the cases could be consolidated in Austin. A decision on whether the cases will be consolidated in San Antonio or in Austin is expected soon – perhaps even this week.
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