January 23, 2005
Round Two with Three Judges

The Stakeholder points to the UPI coverage of the re-arguments of re-redistricting in the federal appeals court. I agree it covers the main points well, but there's a glaring factual error that needs to be corrected:

The old Texas map was drawn shortly after the 2000 census, which is the custom every 10 years in states. Ironically, the same three-judge panel approved that map after the Democratic-controlled Legislature failed to reach agreement.

The State House was under Democratic control in 2001, but the State Senate was not. Each chamber passed its own plan, and it was the failure to reconcile those two plans that led to the court-drawn map in 2001.

A thought occurred to me as I read this:

Attorneys for Latino voters complained to the three-judge panel that the plan violated "one-man, one-vote" because the lawmakers failed to use the most up-to-date census figures.

Jose Garza, an attorney for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the Legislature used census figures from 2000 when there were more accurate figures available in 2003 that reflected the state's growth.

"The time has come to place restraint on the state's mischief," he said.

The state's population increased from just less than 21 million to 22 million from 2000 to 2003, according to U.S. Census figures. The percentage of Latino citizens in the Lone Star State climbed from 32 percent to 34 percent in that period.

Lucas Powe, a University of Texas law professor, also complained about the failure to use up-to-date figures, and he argued that a Legislature should not attempt mid-decade redistricting unless there is a necessity.

"Any redistricting plan that replaces a valid plan must be to meet one-man, one-vote and a compelling state interest," he said.

I still have my doubts that the court will accept that argument, but if they are inclined to do something other than reiterate their original ruling, they could use that as a fulcrum. The 23rd CD was a point of contention in the ruling last January because of the reduction in Hispanic voters in it. What might a re-review of the map with 2003 Census data reveal? I don't know, but it's not out of the question that the judges might consider doing it. Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 23, 2005 to Killer D's | TrackBack

You are right to be skeptical that the panel would change its opinion in any significant way. From all appearances, the two Republicans jurists were not sold on most of the testimony on Friday, although both were intently involved in questioning each of the attorneys at the podium.

Specifically, this panel is looking for testimony on Vieth, not a rehash of the Texas case. They aren't reversing their opinion on the 2003 lines. They are looking for a test for partisan gerrymandering that passes judicial muster. And conforms to current case law. And addresses Vieth.

But Vieth, for all its erudite ruminations, is a bit of a mess. No one is sure what the test should be, or if there should be a test at all. They're waiting for the "truth" to arrive... the right case with the right circumstances that the Court can say, "Look, THIS is where partisan gerrymandering went too far." Even knowing that redrawing lines is always a partisan task.

I kinda got a chuckle when UPI used the word "complained" when it came to Powe. Powe was way too mild-mannered and academic for that description. But he also was the only lawyer who had the full ear of the court, who was arguing an actual test that could be used to void mid-decade redistricting.

I talked to a number of the observers and lawyers at the hearing who walked away with about with the same opinion. Powe was the only score. And, even then, it's not expected to reverse anything in the case... so it's not a "daunting" rewrite of the case. It's an addendum that will be forward to the higher court... which wasn't clear itself on the subject.

Posted by: Kimberly on January 23, 2005 1:53 PM