Federal Court Rejects Texas' GOP-led Redistricting As Discriminatory
A federal appeals court in Washington has ruled that Texas' Republican political leaders drew racially discriminatory legislative district lines after the 2010 Census, failing to meet the federal Voting Rights Act's standards for fairly representing the state's growing non-white population.
The decision is a major setback for Texas Republicans, who thumbed their noses at the Voting Rights Act by asking a federal appeals court to bypass the U.S. Justice Department's approval process for theie new legislative districts. While the state is expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the ruling will not affect the 2012 election because a lower court had temporarily redrawn district lines, creating several congressional districts that are expected to elect non-white representatives.
A statement by the Lone Star Project, which has been involved in the complex litigation surrounding the redistricting fight, said:
"The Court determined that Texas Republican leaders enacted maps that reduced the opportunity for minority voters in Texas to elect their candidates of choice AND the Court ruled that the Legislature used a process that was intentionally discriminatory in adopting the Congressional and State Senate maps...
"The DC Court’s ruling means that the maps passed by the Legislature in 2011 cannot be used for any election going forward. The current court-drawn interim Congressional, State Senate and State House maps will serve as the benchmark for determining minority voter opportunity. In effect, if the Legislature chooses to redraw the three maps next year, they cannot revert to their previously enacted maps but must start over using the court-drawn interim maps as a baseline."
"The Court’s decision is a damning indictment of Rick Perry and other Texas Republican leaders who, in a cynical attempt to hold on to power, engaged in intentional discrimination against Texas Latino and African-American voters," Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle said. "Every fair-minded Texan familiar with the details of redistricting knew Republican leaders were violating the law. [Texas Attorney General] Greg Abbott and Texas Republicans will stop at nothing to hold power."
As noted in a detailed analysis by The Nation's Ari Berman, Texas' GOP aggressively tried to redraw the political map so a shrinking white minority could retain power. Since the 2000 Census, Texas saw its population grow by more than 4 million people, adding four seats to its congressional delegation. He writes:
"According to a lawsuit filed by a host of civil rights groups, “even though Whites’ share of the population declined from 52 percent to 45 percent, they remain the majority in 70 percent of Congressional Districts.” To cite just one of many examples: in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Hispanic population increased by 440,898, the African-American population grew by 152,825 and the white population fell by 156,742. Yet white Republicans, a minority in the metropolis, control four of five Congressional seats. Despite declining in population, white Republicans managed to pick up two Congressional seats in the Dallas and Houston areas. In fact, whites are the minority in the state’s five largest counties but control twelve of nineteen Congressional districts."
Not only did the GOP seek to maintain political power, but they also redrew district lines to remove economic centers from Democrats. The ruling said:
"Congressman Al Green, who represents CD 9, testified that “substantial surgery” was done to his district that could not have happened by accident. The Medical Center, Astrodome, rail line, and Houston Baptist University — the “economic engines” of the district — were all removed in the enacted plan. The enacted plan also removed from CD 9 the area where Representative Green had established his district office. Likewise, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, who represents CD 18, testified that the plan removed from her district key economic generators as well as her district office. Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of CD 30 also testified that the plan removed the American Center (home of the Dallas Mavericks), the arts district, her district office, and her home from CD 30. The mapdrawers also removed the district office, the Alamo, and the Convention Center (named after the incumbent’s father), from CD 20, a Hispanic ability district."
No such changes were made to Republican-held districts. The ruling is heading toward the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices also are expected to hear the Texas' challenge over the Justice Department's rejection of its new voter ID law.