Ruling Clips Texas Republican Gerrymandering Short
Ruling in a voting rights case has Minority and civil rights groups brought mixed and stirring reviews over progress being made to level the political landscape for Blacks and Hispanics.
Federal judges invalidated two Texas congressional districts last week, ruling that they must be fixed by either the Legislature or a federal court.
“The decision is in and we won part and lost part,” said Texas NAACP President Gary Bledsoe. “The Texas NAACP and African-American Congresspersons (Hons Eddie Bernice Johnson, Sheila Jackson Lee and Alexander Green) prevailed once again on the intentional discrimination claim, but lost on the intentional discrimination claim in Dallas and Tarrant Counties.”
Since the Great Reconstruction period of American history when Blacks used their new found freedom, rights and great power to elect representatives at every level of government and has a strong presence from the local courthouse to statehouses and Congress, there has been a concerted effort to dwarf Black power and voices or silence them altogether using a method of drawing representative districts that reduce or prevent the election of Black and Brown candidates to political offices.
Gerrymandering, the practice of drawing self-serving political boundaries, is as old as the country itself. Its impetus, one could argue, is even older and deeper-seated, grounded in the fundamentals of human nature.
Partisan gerrymandering commonly used to increase the power of a political party. In some instances, political parties collude to protect incumbents by engaging in bipartisan gerrymandering. After racial minorities were enfranchised, some jurisdictions engaged in racial gerrymandering to weaken the political power of racial minority voters, while others engaged in racial gerrymandering to strengthen the power of minority voters.
According to Bledsoe, it means that Texas’ congressional maps are still flawed by racial gerrymandering and must be partially redrawn before the 2018 elections.
The 107-page ruling — the latest chapter of a six-year court battle over how Texas lawmakers drew political maps — sets up a scramble to redraw the districts in time for the 2018 elections. The court ruled only on the current congressional map, leaving legal challenges to the state House map unanswered.
Voting records show an increasing number of Hispanic and black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats in elections.
That information appeared to motivate Republican leaders’ to keep their edge by attempting to confront that growth in their latest round of redistricting through gerrymandering and that action landed them in court.
Under the ruling, the Harris County seats will remain the same and remedies in the plan are to take place in Austin and Corpus Christi.
The judges found that Hispanic voters in Congressional District 27 represented by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, were “intentionally deprived of their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.” Congressional District 35— a Central Texas district represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin — was deemed “an impermissible racial gerrymander” because lawmakers illegally used race as the predominant factor in drawing it, the judges wrote.
One of the reasons the ruling was not a complete victory for Democrats and minority rights groups, was because the ruling failed to bring about the kind of changes that could put more seats in play for the first midterm elections under President Donald Trump.
“We appreciate that the panel ruled in favor of Texas on many issues in the case. But the portion of the ruling that went against Texas is puzzling considering the Legislature adopted the congressional map the same court itself adopted in 2012, and the Obama-era Department of Justice did not bring any claims against the map,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement about the ruling.
Paxton indicated that the state may appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Before last Tuesday’s decision, the judges had already ruled that the Texas Legislature sought to weaken the strength of Latino and black voters while drawing state House and congressional districts in 2011, immediately following the 2010 U.S. Census. But the 2011 maps never actually took effect.
According to Bledsoe, the state of Texas and MALDEF put on evidence that Blacks and Browns were not cohesive, while the NAACP, Congresspersons, LULAC and MALC maintained the groups voted cohesively.
The Three-Judge panel also held that Congressional District 30, held by Congresswoman Johnson, was appropriately remedied in C235 (from the district in C185 the panel held was the result of illegal packing and cracking) since all that could be created otherwise would be a coalition district.
“The court said it could only create coalition districts if Blacks and Browns voted cohesively,” he added. “Because cohesion between Blacks and Browns was not proven no additional remedy could be provided, according to the panel.”
The excess voters in CD30 that we contended still show packing was not of consequence because no additional seat could be created since their was no Black and Brown cohesion.
“This means we will move to 13 districts out of 36 where the majority of voices of African-Americans and Latinos may be part of a winning group of voters,” Bledsoe said.
For decades under the Voting Rights Act, Texas was on a list of states and localities needing the federal government’s permission to change election laws, a safeguard for minority voting rights called preclearance.
The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the list in 2013 and lifted federal oversight for Texas and other jurisdictions, noting that conditions for minority voters had “dramatically improved.”
Unless all of these findings are reversed, there is a distinct possibility the State may be required to pre-clear future voting changes once again, he said.
The Court set a remedial hearing for September 5th to begin re-drawing the congressional map.
By: Darwin Campbell