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Killer D’s

Will Perry call a special session to force the Lege to draw a Congressional map?


Gov. Rick Perry today said state lawmakers should be the ones to draw new congressional districts, not judges.

“I do think that the responsibility is with the members of the Legislature,” Perry said this morning. “To allow the courts to do that is not in the best interest of the people.”


There are six days left in the legislative session, and while Perry says he hopes lawmakers will get the job done, there is virtually no way that lawmakers can still tackle the task of congressional redistricting.

And here is the problem for Perry: The 2001 Legislature did not draw a new congressional map, leaving that job to federal courts. In 2003, Perry called lawmakers into repeated special sessions to do so.

So will he do that again? Numerous people close to Perry have said he will not.

I’m a little surprised by this. Greg has a theory (see second comment) that Perry is looking to get something from the Congressional delegation and will act when he has it. I think he may not want to get in the way of an intra-Republican pissing contest, between Lamar Smith and Joe Barton, and may just not care to have any distractions as he tries to get himself drafted to run for President. He’s usually pretty clear about what he wants and what he’ll do to get it, so it shouldn’t be too hard to tell. If the ongoing school finance negotiations fail to bear fruit and a special is needed to sort that mess out, then I don’t see how he avoids adding Congressional redistricting to the call. Will he do it just for that? So far I have no reason to believe he will, but that could change.

What’s different between now and 2001, when the Congressional map was also judicially drawn? (I seem to recall it’s been that way every time since 1971, the difference being that now Republicans have the control over the process.) In 2001, the House was still majority Democrat, and the two chambers could not agree on a bill. In addition, the Texas Congressional delegation was 17-15 D (though one of those Ds was Ralph Hall, who doesn’t count and who later switched to keep his seat), so the Republicans had a reasonable argument that the districts did not reflect the state’s political reality. (Much like Latinos have a decent argument now, not that it’s gotten them anywhere.) They also had a backup plan, which was to dominate the 2002 elections and redraw the map at that time to their preferences in the 2003 session.

The history of the 2003 legislative sessions is told as best I could at the time in my Killer D’s archive. Late in the session, some maps began to emerge, and though it wasn’t clear that anything could pass the Senate, House Democrats decided to take no chances and broke quorum on May 12, departing the state for Ardmore, OK, where they stayed for five days, returning after the House deadline for passing new bills had passed. After a number of redistricting hearings were held around the state, a special session was called to try again. After the House passed a map, everything came to a screeching halt as ten Senate Democrats plus Republican Bill Ratliff signed a letter saying they would not vote to suspend the rules and allow a redistricting bill to come to the floor. With the Senate’s two thirds rule in effect, that meant redistricting was dead for the session.

And that’s when it got even stranger. A second special session was called immediately after the first one ended, only this time with no “blocker bill”, meaning that the Senate’s two thirds rule was not in effect. This time, Senate Democrats took a powder, having previously announced their intent to do so under these conditions. They headed west to New Mexico and stayed there through the end of the second session. Two weeks after that, Sen. John Whitmire returned to Houston and announced his intent to attend Session #3; his comrades followed him home shortly thereafter and the next session was called. Finally, as time was running out in the third overtime, Tom DeLay swept into town, cracked a few heads, and got a deal done.

I give all that history to say that I can’t really think of a good reason why Rick Perry wouldn’t call a special session on Congressional redistricting. The two thirds rule in the Senate is hardly an obstacle, as they have demonstrated numerous times. There’s no way that a court will draw a friendlier map for Republicans than the Republicans themselves can. The only thing that makes sense to me is that he’s just biding his time, for whatever purpose. He waited 30 days before calling the first special session in 2003, so who’s to say he needs to act now. All I know is that if we go into 2012 with a map drawn by a three-judge panel or the like, it’ll be the biggest political mystery of recent years.

Finally, I should note that while the Senate Redistricting Committee may be fallow, other folks are taking on the map-drawing task. State Rep. Marc Veasey released a statement saying he “will present a statewide congressional redistricting map that provides the opportunity for Latino and African-American Texans to elect their candidate of choice as required by the Voting Rights Act, in recognition of the fact that minority population growth is the only reason Texas is receiving four additional congressional districts”. That’s happening at 9AM in the Speaker’s room at the Capitol. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with.

UPDATE: Welcome Kos Elections readers, and thanks very much to David Nir for the kind words. Roll Call suggests another possible reason why Perry isn’t motivated to call a special session on redistricting this time around:

If state lawmakers pass a map during special session, Perry will ultimately have control over it — and it’s likely the delegation won’t love the result. There’s still bad blood between Perry and the Texas delegation, which largely supported Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s (R) bid against the governor in 2010.

“If Perry takes control of the process, then at least you know that it will be a Republican-friendly map. It may not be a delegation-friendly map,” said one Texas GOP source close to the redistricting process. “He’s essentially let the Texas delegation know, ‘Don’t come to me with any favors.’ Read between the lines: The Congressional delegation, at least two-thirds of them, endorsed KBH in the primary.”

Never underestimate the power of spite, especially where Rick Perry is concerned.

Redistricting symposium

Sorry I missed this event on Friday.

The University of Texas School of Law will host a symposium on Friday, March 2, about the 2003 Congressional redistricting in Texas, which is also the focus of a new book by adjunct law professor Steve Bickerstaff.

Published this month by The University of Texas Press, Lines in the Sand: Congressional Redistricting in Texas and the Downfall of Tom DeLay is a comprehensive look at the efforts by Republican lawmakers in 2003–led by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay–to gerrymander Texas’s 32 Congressional districts. The book also provides insights into the 2002 campaign activities that made the redistricting possible, and the civil and criminal court proceedings that followed.

The day-long symposium at the Law School’s Eidman Courtroom–which is free and open to the public–features the book and the issues it raises, bringing together Bickerstaff with key players and observers in the Texas redistricting case, as well as a number of election law experts from across the nation.

I’ll have to put a copy of the book (reviewed here) on my reading list. Based on these two reports from the Observer blog, it sounds like the event was worthwhile. One interesting point:

What was a tad surprising was the lawyers’ agreement that Texas should reform the current system by putting a “low cap” on campaign contributions. The cap should be accompanied by a removal of the state’s ban on corporate cash, they added. “It’s not intuitively clear to me why it’s okay for certain homebuilders and other individuals who are immensely wealthy to give hundreds of thousands of dollars to single candidates, but a corporation can’t give a thousand dollars,” said J.D. Pauerstein, referring to Bob Perry, election ATM of the rightwing. Pauerstein, who says that he’s tired of being hit up for contributions, hopes that the limits would be small across the board.

The other lawyer referenced was Dick De Guerin, DeLay’s defense attorney. Of course, corporations can give money to campaigns, but only for limited purposes, as we all know. I’d be perfectly happy with Pauerstein’s proposed alternative, not that it’ll ever happen. But it’s still nice to see more people on board with the idea.

Judges draw their own map

Why do these big rulings always happen while I’m on vacation?

A three-judge federal panel on Friday placed Webb County into one congressional district, solidifying Hispanic voting strength in South Texas.

The U.S. Supreme Court remanded the map to the panel to redraw the sprawling 23rd congressional district, which it ruled in June unconstitutionally diluted Hispanic voting strength.

The district, which is now represented by San Antonio Republican Rep. Henry Bonilla, stretches from Laredo to El Paso County and north to San Antonio.

The high court ruled that the district boundaries engineered former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and drawn by Republican state legislators in 2003 diminish Hispanic voting power because a large cluster of Webb County Hispanics were divided into two different congressional districts.

“These changes restore Latino voting strength to District 23 without dividing communities of interest,” the judges said.

The judges emphasized that they made the minimal changes possible to fix the violations ordered by the Supreme Court.


Bonilla will have a tougher time seeking re-election. The new 23rd District has 61 percent Hispanic voting-age population, compared to the 51 percent Hispanic voting-age population in the district in which he was elected.

The bulk of his support has come from non-Hispanic Republicans and elections returns have shown he has diminishing support among the largely Democratic Hispanic voters in his district.

The new 23rd District also will be more evenly divided between Democratic and Republican voters.

Under the new plan, all incumbents remain in their current districts.

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, will get a slightly more Democratic population in his 25th congressional district because the court moved a largely liberal section of south Austin into his territory. Travis County remains split among three congressional districts, as it was under the redistricting map passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature in 2003.

The new map also makes Doggett’s south Austin district more compact. Previously the boundaries snaked down to the Rio Grande Valley in an oddly shaped district that was nicknamed the bacon strip district.

District reconfigurations also slightly changed the 15th congressional district, represented by Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes. His district remains heavily Democratic.

All of this is basically as I predicted in terms of affecting incumbents. I didn’t expect CD15 to be touched, but it’s not unreasonable that it was. The Lone Star Project has a much more thorough breakdown of the affected districts.

Also as I expected, this was done in time for November. I understand there’s a lot of speculation going on about whether or not Ciro Rodriguez will gear up for one more run (presumably not in CD28, which now has all of Webb County in it), and whether anyone else will take a shot at Henry Bonilla, but there’s nothing solid yet that I’m aware of.

Anyway. BOR has some pictures of the new districts, plus a diary from John Courage, whose odds against Lamar Smith sadly got a lot longer now that some heavily Republican turf west of Austin got moved back into CD21. That was pretty much expected in just about any permutation of the districts, but it’s still unfortunate for him. There will be much more to be said about all of this soon.

UPDATE: And so the speculation begins as to who may jump into a newly opened primary for CD23 version 3:

Julian Castro (former City Councilman and Mayoral candidate), State Rep. David Leibowitz, former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez (for sure), SA City Councilman Art Hall (Dem who gave the opening invocation at the state convention in June, and who represents the North/Northwest portion of CD-23 in Bexar County), SA City Councilman Richard Perez, current candidate Rick Bolanos, and attorney Rene Barrientos.

Names are being thrown around like crazy right now. I can tell you for sure that SA City Councilman Roland Gutierrez is out (he’s gonna be our next mayor… you heard it here first) and some crazy bastard just told me that Madla is thinking about running. My major question is, where is West Texas and border Rep. Pete Gallegos gonna stand?

I have a slight preference for Castro, but only if he’s learned how to run a better race than he did for San Antonio Mayor in 2005. Any of these folks would be fun to watch. Stay tuned.

As we dance to the redistricting map tango

There’s a certain karma in having the DeLay ballot replacement ruling be handed down by one federal appeals court on the same day that another such court was hearing about proposed remedies to the state’s unconstitutional Congressional map. One theme seems to have stood out from yesterday’s arguments: The court appears to be reluctant to screw any incumbents more than they absolutely have to.

The state’s congressional map could be fixed without pairing incumbents or eliminating U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s Travis County base, a federal judge suggested today.

U.S. District Judge Patrick Higginbotham, the presiding judge on a three-judge panel, made the suggestion as he grilled the state’s attorney at a redistricting hearing this morning in a packed Austin courtroom.


Higginbotham seemed to suggest his thinking – if not the panel’s – on the matter.

He suggested redrawing Doggett’s existing district, which runs from Austin to the Mexico border, to contain more of Travis County. He then suggested making Webb County the political base for a South Texas district represented by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.

“Why should a Latino community have to come to Austin?” Higginbotham asked.

He said Bonilla’s district could pick up more voters – both Republican and Democratic – from San Antonio.

Higginbotham pointedly asked [Solicitor General Ted] Cruz about the state’s plan to eliminate Doggett’s political base in Travis County.

“Why is that necessary?” he asked.

Cruz defended it, saying the state was trying to make the districts more compact.

Cruz, of course, had argued against eviscerating Bonilla’s district on the grounds that the Court should “cure a violation in (District) 23 and, other than that, like a physician, do no harm.” That he wouldn’t extend that logic to Lloyd Doggett in the not-violating-the-Constitution District 25 is not a surprise, but it’s still nice to see him get called on this little paradox.

I’ve said all along that I believe the Court will take a minimalist view of their task, and that the one principle that I believe they will strive to adhere to is incumbent protection. It’s one thing to rail against legislatures for engaging in all kinds of backscratching for the purposes of protecting their own, but I think it’s a lot to ask three judges, with a gun to their heads, to sanction the elimination or at least the jeopardizing of a duly elected representative, even if that election occurred in a district that shouldn’t have been. I believe that they will see any such maneuvers as the Lege’s job and not theirs, and as such I believe they will hand back a map that does not pair up any incumbents. What may happen in 2008 and beyond, with or without further tinkering in Austin, is another story, but for 2006 I will be very surprised if Bonilla, Cuellar, and Doggett are not all heavy favorites to go back to Washington. We shall see.

And for what it’s worth, Paul Burka reads Judge Higginbotham’s comments in the same way as I do, and follows it to the conclusion that the panel already has a complete, incumbent-protecting plan in mind. The best part is we ought not to be kept in suspense for long.

UPDATE: Rep. Pena adds his thoughts.

Three times for Ciro?

Will Ciro Rodriguez run again for Congress? Depending on what map is ultimately adopted by the court, the answer is Yes, according to Aaron Pena.

Returned a call from former Congressman Ciro Rodriguez who wanted to inform me of his interest in the redistricting process. He wanted it to be known that he was actively preparing for a run for Congress if a certain district developed between the San Antonio and Deep South Texas regions. This campaign would happen if a particular map was selected by the federal three judge panel. I asked if he wanted this kept confidential. He responded that he wanted as many people to know of his interest. So there it is …

Vince has more. Let’s just say that as much as I like Ciro, I’ll be a little gunshy a third time around, at least until I see who his opposition is and what his fundraising looks like. And who knows what may happen in the event of another round of appeals.

Comments on redistricting maps filed

Friday was the deadline for parties in the redistricting lawsuit to files their comments on everyone else’s plans, and the state-drawn Eviscerate Lloyd Doggett plan was heavily criticized by expected and unexpected sources.

“The state plan changes two or three districts by partisan makeup. It’s a partisan get-even plan,” said lawyer Rolando Rios, who represents the League of United Latin American Citizens.

“State Republican leaders chose to put a partisan agenda ahead of the interests of Hispanic voters, whose voting rights have been violated,” said Ed Martin, a Democrat consultant and redistricting expert.

GOP Attorney General Greg Abbott and his assistants submitted the state map.

Abbott declined to respond beyond his solicitor general’s prepared statement that defended the state’s map as one that maintains partisan balance and reunites Webb County.

“It leaves 28 congressional districts completely untouched, and alters only District 23 and three adjoining districts,” Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz said.

However, a prominent Texas Republican consultant also blasted the state’s proposal.

“I’m disappointed that the Republicans are using this as a cocktail party joke opportunity rather than to submit real evidence before real judges who are going to determine the future of our state,” GOP consultant Royal Masset said. “The Republican plan makes no sense. It’s not responsive to anything. It’s like a political statement.”


Trying to remove Doggett from Austin undermines the Republican argument for drawing fair districts, Masset said.

“All we did is draw a goofy map laughing at Lloyd Doggett,” the Republican consultant said. “I don’t know what they are accomplishing by this idiocy. There’s no way in God’s creation that the judges are going to approve a Republican map that doesn’t have any Democratic congressmen in Travis County.”

I’ve said this in a different context, but I’ll repeat it here: No one can say for sure what the judges will do. I appreciate Masset’s sentiments, and Lord knows I hope he’s right, but I’ve been following this saga for too damn long to hang my hopes on anything as ephemeral as that.

One more point:

In addition to rejecting the state plan, LULAC also dismissed Bonilla’s proposal as an “incumbent protection plan.”

“Incumbency is something that should not even be considered by the court in fashioning a remedy,” said Rios, LULAC’s lawyer.

In an ideal world, perhaps that’s how it should be, but if there’s one thing the courts have consistently accepted as a valid purpose of redistricting, it’s incumbent protection. That in and of itself is as good a reason as any to hope that the panel will reject the state’s map. With all due respect to Attorney Rios, that argument isn’t going to fly.

For more on this, BOR has the Lone Star Project response, which includes the briefs filed by the Jackson plaintiffs, and over at Kuff’s World, I’ve got some comments by A.J. Pate, one of the private citizens who has filed a new map for the court to consider. The court will meet on August 3, and AG Greg Abbott has asked for a ruling by the 7th, which would be almost exactly identical to the lead time of the 1996 Vela v. Bush ruling. Stay tuned.

Analysis of all current redistricting plans

Local political consultant Mustafa Tameez has gone over all of the redistricting map proposals that have been submitted to the three-judge panel, plus their briefs where available, and put together a concise analysis of them all, complete with illustrations. I have a copy of his report here (PDF) for your perusal. Oral arguments will be heard on August 3, and as noted before, the new map should be in place in time for the November election. Take a look and see what the judges will have to work with.

Many more maps

I’m counting a total of twelve new maps available for viewing at the Texas Redistricting site. My eyes are a little crossed from looking at all of this – the RedViewer is a great resource, but an annoying one as well, since it doesn’t work with Firefox.

The latest news is another attempt by the state to cut Lloyd Doggett off at the knees (more from the Chron). I don’t think that’ll fly with the three-judge panel, while PerryVsWorld thinks that map is a slight favorite. The court may give deference to the state in recognition of the Lege’s role in drawing maps, or it may give more weight to the plaintiffs for winning the lawsuit in the first place. And they may go another direction, or draw their own map – as Paul Burka says, they have lifetime tenure for a reason.

I don’t quite have the energy to give all these maps a full going-over. If you want more analysis, follow those links above plus these to the Lone Star Project, more from Burka, Rep. Pena, BOR, and in what may be the most exhaustive blog post I’ve ever seen, Vince.

Whatever happens, I’m sure the judges are hoping this will be the last they see of Texas Congressional maps for a long time. After three goes at it in five years, I’ll bet they’re sick of the whole process, and I can’t say I blame them.

UPDATE: More from Burka and CQ Politics (via Political Wire).

First look at the new maps

Proposals for new Congressional maps are starting to come in for examination by the three-judge panel. LULAC is first out of the blocks, with two maps that make changes to five districts. I’ve got a look at them over at Kuff’s World.

Are two reps better than one?

With the prospect of Webb County being reunited in a single Congressional district, the citizens of Laredo are pondering whether they’re better off bifurcated, where at least there’d two Congressfolk nominally representing their interests.

Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas believes it is good for the vibrant border city to have the help of two congressmen on issues such as border security and international trade.

“We just want to have a voice in Washington. We have so many problems here,” Salinas said. “We have two very able congressmen that are doing a good job for the border.”

Because “two are better than one,” Salinas said the “ideal” solution would be for Laredo to retain two congressmen, presuming one remains based here.

“I just want a loud and proud voice of Laredo to represent us,” Salinas said.

Then what he wants is Henry Cuellar. Given the political landscape, however, that may mean keeping Cuellar away from a rematch with Bonilla.

Republican political consultant Royal Masset said Bonilla should not have to worry if he is paired with Cuellar. Masset said Cuellar came close in 2002 only because Laredo resident Tony Sanchez was on the ballot in the governor’s race.

Masset said he believes the federal court will try to avoid pitting any incumbents against one another.

He noted the federal panel includes 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Patrick Higginbotham and U.S. District Judge John T. Ward, who were on the panel that drew congressional districts in 2001. In that instance, the judges tried to protect the incumbents.

I hate to say it, but I largely agree with Masset in his assessment of Cuellar-Bonilla, both for 2002 and potentially beyond. It’s not that I think Cuellar can’t take him out, it’s that I think he starts out as an underdog, and he’ll need to make up ground in the vast West Texas part of the district, without having much time for it if a new map is in place for November. If this were deferred till 2008, which would be wrong in my opinion, I’d feel more optimistic about Cuellar’s chances in a rematch.

On the other matter, while I agree the judges will lean towards protecting the incumbents, it’s not clear to me that the Democrats will be so considerate in the maps that they submit. They may very well be happy to stick all of Webb in CD23, thus handing CD28 back to someone who’s likely to be better received by the caucus, and take what’s probably their best shot at ousting Bonilla. I expect them to submit one such map. What’ll be interesting is if more than one is like that. It’ll say a lot about Cuellar’s standing and clout among his colleagues.

Democratic consultant Matt Angle analyzed the redistricting possibilities for his Lone Star Project.

Angle said he believes the court will change as few districts as possible.

“It is assumed that options rippling across the entire state, or far outside South Texas, will not be seriously considered by the court,” Angle said.

I’ve touched on this before, and I still think this way. You can see the LSP’s scenarios here.

Some CD28 speculation

Via Dos Centavos, an Express News article fro last Friday on how the CD23/CD28 conundrum may get resolved.

Some local Democrats hope to see Laredo dropped from District 28 in the remapping process, which starts with parties in the case filing their proposed remedies in federal court by July 14.

“I think what’s inevitable is that Laredo will be reunited in one district,” said state Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits challenging the Republican-drawn map. “But I don’t know if it’s going to be in District 23.”

For his part, [Rep. Henry] Cuellar doubts Laredo would be stripped from the 28th district.

“It’s a possibility – but not likely,” he said. “There could be a situation where I’m not even affected. … There’s nothing magical about Laredo Hispanics.”

Whoever creates the new boundaries, he noted, could pull in Hispanics from the Odessa area.

State Rep. Robert Puente, D-San Antonio, likewise believes Laredo will stay put.

“I think at the end of the day you’re going to have a Cuellar district and you’re going to have a [Rep. Henry] Bonilla district,” Puente said. “I don’t think the Legislature or the courts would do a scenario where two incumbents would have to run against one another.”

As it happens, the newly-minted blogger Paul Burka explains why West Texas is unlikely to help out Rep. Bonilla in making CD23 a Hispanic opportunity district again.

Why was Speaker Craddick telling folks that the Legislature should draw the lines? To make Bonilla’s seat safely Republican, the Legislature split Webb County, exporting nearly 100,000 Latinos in Laredo to an adjacent district and importing a like number of Anglos from the Hill Country into Bonilla’s. The Supremes ruled — duh — that the swap violated the Voting Rights Act. To replace the Latinos he lost, Bonilla has cast his eye on District 11, which, unfortunately for him, just happens to centered around Craddick’s hometown of Midland. Craddick and incumbent congressman Mike Conaway are perfectly happy with the district the way it is.

Why not just restore District 23 to its former boundaries by returning the 100,000 Latinos Bonilla needs? Er, this is a little touchy, but Bonilla doesn’t want these Latinos. He won reelection in 2002 with just 51.5 percent of the vote, losing 92 percent of the Latinos in the district. The difference between Laredo Latinos and the ones in District 11 is that the latter have a history of low voter turnout.

Wouldn’t Craddick and Conaway be willing to help out a fellow Republican? Not a chance. This is redistricting, remember — the hardest hardball politics there is. The problem isn’t losing the Latinos, it’s taking in the 100,000 Hill Country Anglos whom Bonilla would have to give up. The last thing Craddick wants is for the balance of power in the district he worked so hard to create to shift eastward to the fast-growing San Antonio exurbs, causing Midland to lose control.

Of course, if the court ultimately redraws CD23 for this cycle, then CD11 could play a role in it. And despite Governor Perry’s implied threat to redo it again in the Lege, there’s no guarantee of any one particular outcome if it goes back into the sausage grinder, especially if Craddick is weakened by further depletion of his troops after November. So never say never.

The 1996 timeline

Despite the Chron’s archives being unavailable, I did a little Googling and was able to find enough information about the 1996 Supreme Court decision on Texas’ Congressional districts to make a determination about when the new map was in place for the November open primary that followed. I’ve written about it at Kuff’s World.

After the ruling – Now what?

Time to go through the news and see what we’ve learned since yesterday’s SCOTUS ruling on Texas redistricting. Before I get into that, let me start by endorsing what Matt wrote about the Voting Rights Act. It was important in 2003, it’s important now, and renewing it needs to be a top priority. Where do you think we’d be now if the staffers in the Justice Department who understood and respected the VRA had not been overruled by the appointed hacks when this Congressional map was up for preclearance? I don’t believe there would have been time to redo CD23 for the 2004 elections.

I should note that Rick Hasen and Amy Howe note a shift in the interpretation of the VRA by Justice Kennedy in his majority opinion. Expect to read a lot more about that in the coming weeks. (Links via Political Wire and Tom Kirkendall, respectively.)

One last thing before I hit the news stories: The one place where mid-decade redistricting is not likely to occur any time soon is Colorado. That’s because in their Legislature’s attempt to redo the lines in 2003, their State Supreme Court ruled that once-a-decade redistricting was a part of their state constitution. The US Supreme Court refused to grant cert on an appeal of that ruling in 2004. It’s possible other attempts at mid-decade do-overs will run into the same sort of roadblock, though at this time I have no idea where or even if other such restrictions may be in place.

OK then. Let’s start with the Chron, which dives right into the question of what happens to CD23 and Rep. Henry Bonilla.

Bonilla’s district cannot be redrawn without making changes to District 28, held by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, and District 25, held by U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.

The reconfiguration of Doggett’s district also may result in a three-way trade of Travis County voters between Doggett and 10th District U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, and 21st District U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio.

McCaul also represents western Harris County. Such a trade of voters would put the Republican district’s power base in Travis County and make it unlikely that a Harris County politician would win the district in a future election.

For the record, in 2004 the Travis County portion of CD10 went Democratic by an average 58-42 margin in countywide races and 55-45 at the statewide level, despite the lack of a Democratic nominee for CD10 on the ballot. It’s the Harris County portion of this district that makes it Republican. I’m skeptical that this district would change much, but I suppose you never know.

The Supreme Court sent the congressional district maps back to a three-judge panel made up of 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Patrick Higginbotham of Dallas and U.S. District Judges Lee Rosenthal of Houston and John T. Ward of Marshall.

That court likely will redraw the maps before the November election and set special elections in any districts where changes occur. However, it is possible that Gov. Rick Perry could call a special session of the Legislature to redraw the maps, but he indicated in a statement that he will be willing to let the court take the lead.

“We expect the panel to hold a hearing in the near future to address the timeline for the process,” Perry said. “I will work with Attorney General (Greg) Abbott in our state’s efforts to resolve this legal issue.”

While the Legislature could be asked to redraw the maps, that’s unlikely because of legal hurdles that would have to be cleared before the November elections, several redistricting experts said.

“It would be very difficult for the Legislature to do it in the time available,” said State Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, who sponsored the redistricting plan in 2003.

They can always redo it later if they don’t like what the court does. That’s what this all boils down to, doesn’t it? And just so we’re all clear on that, I refer you to this statement in the Star Telegram:

Gov. Rick Perry, declaring the decision a victory for the state, said the next step will probably be a hearing by the three-judge panel that had upheld the plan. A spokeswoman, Rachael Novier, left open the possibility that the Republican governor would summon lawmakers back to Austin to remedy the court’s concerns.

Asked whether Perry adheres to past statements that redistricting should be left to the Legislature and not the courts, Novier said, “Absolutely.”

Except of course when he thinks it suits his purposes, as was the case in 2001. Those were the days, huh?

Back to the Chron:

Bonilla said the Supreme Court’s decision about his district is “more of a nuisance than anything else” because instead of concentrating on re-election he will have to worry about what the three-judge court will do. He said the Legislature should be in charge of redrawing the map.

“People aren’t clamoring in neighborhoods to count how many brown faces are in this polling area or how many black faces or whatever,” Bonilla said. “This is a cause driven more by what I call the professional minorities.”

Bonilla said he also thought Cuellar would want to avoid going head-to-head with him in a special election.

“He has a scot-free election,” Bonilla said. “I don’t know that he would be interested in getting involved in a titanic battle.”

Cuellar said he was talking to lawyers to determine the impact of the court’s decision.

“I’ve always been able to land on my feet. I think we are going to be fine,” he said.

I’m sure Bonilla feels confident that his homeboys will protect him again as they did in 2003 after his little scare against Cuellar. The Statesman picks up on that.

The crucial decision for Republicans will be how to redraw Bonilla’s district.

If they suggest putting Laredo wholly in his district, then a senior member of the GOP delegation will face a tough battle against Cuellar in a majority Latino district. But GOP advisers said Bonilla might be saved by pinching off Latinos from the edges of other districts so he would not be pitted against Cuellar.

Neither Bonilla or Cuellar would welcome a showdown.

“I think you can fashion a remedy without necessarily pairing Bonilla and myself together,” Cuellar said. “The knee-jerk reaction is to get them from Webb County. . . . Laredo is not the only magical place to get Hispanics. The court didn’t say, ‘Get Hispanics from Laredo.’ The court said, ‘Get Hispanics.’ ”

I took a look at the Teaxs redistricting page to see what happened in the old 23rd District in 2004. The Republican index went from 47.5% in 2002 to 56.4% in 2004 there. That almost undoubtedly reflects the difference between having Tony Sanchez on the ballot, and having George Bush on it. Nonetheless, it reinforces what I said yesterday about Cuellar’s choice. Even if Laredo/Webb County is moved wholesale back into CD23, Cuellar would need a huge performance there, and he’d still need to overcome Bonilla’s advantages elsewhere. And he’d have to do it without a local turnout enhancer like Sanchez at the top of the ticket. Cuellar proved that he’s a pretty good draw by himself in the 2004 and 2006 primaries, but this is a tall order.

Bonilla, whose support among Latinos has dropped over the years, said he would prefer that state lawmakers, not judges, make the fix. He added that he saw no need to hurry toward a solution.

“Logistically it would be so difficult now to make a huge change before the November elections, that it would probably be wise to wait for the Legislature to do it when they convene next year,” Bonilla said. “The clock’s ticking between now and November – why not just let this election go?”

Doggett disagreed, saying that to wait would mean holding an election under an illegal map: “I don’t know if that has ever happened before.”

The judicial panel has not announced a timeline for reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision, but most Capitol observers don’t expect the judges to allow the issue drag out beyond the November elections.

If either the judicial panel or the Legislature acted quickly, another round of primaries could be required this fall for districts that are changed.

Or, as happened in a similar redistricting scenario in 1996, there might be an open ballot for congressional candidates. Under that plan, the number of candidates would not be limited by political affiliation, and the winner would have to get a majority.

The reality, however, is that there are few opponents who would have the money or name identification to challenge incumbents, including Doggett, on such short notice.

I still don’t see anything definitive as to timing, but I agree with Doggett in that I think there will be a new plan in place for November. And I agree with Nathan Persily when he says that if it’s the three-judge panel doing the dirty work, they’ll aim for as narrow a fix as they can. It’s not out of the question at all that Bonilla and Cuellar could be back in CDs 23 and 28 without much more than token opposition this time. Next time, though, who knows?

Once more on Bonilla from the Express News:

Redistricting experts said the districts most likely affected by the ruling, in addition to Bonilla’s, include those now represented by Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo; Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio; Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin; Ruben Hinojosa, D-Mercedes; and Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi.

Perales and others want new boundaries drawn before the fall election.

“There’s ample precedent for it to be done in a timely manner,” said Ed Martin, a Democrat consultant and redistricting expert. “The people whose rights have been trampled from one election cycle shouldn’t be denied those rights again. They should not be asked to wait and have their rights denied for two more years.”

Redrawing Bonilla’s district could mean changes in Cuellar’s neighboring District 28, which includes half of Laredo and Webb County that once was part of District 23.

“That’s going to be the question: How do we fix Henry Bonilla’s unconstitutional district?” said Webb County Democratic Chairman Javier Montemayor, who favors leaving District 28 alone. “One of the attempts probably will be to take Hispanic voters out of Webb County and give them to Bonilla. I don’t think that’s a solution.”

What about CD25? The Laredo Morning Times looks at it from the local perspective.

District 23’s proximity to the Rio Grande Valleys District 25, and possibly Rep. Ruben Hinojosa’s District 15 to the east, means remapped congressional lines inevitably will have an effect on the Valley.

Several Democrats praised the Supreme Courts recognition of what they perceive as partisan mischief and envisioned the growing Valley as its own congressional district.

“We have nothing in common with the people of Travis County,” said state Rep. Ismael “Kino” Flores, D-Mission, who serves on the House redistricting committee. He was referring to the 300-mile-long, north-south stretch of land from the Rio Grande to Austin that [Rep. Lloyd] Doggett now represents.

“I think everything south of Falfurrias and as far as Zapata (County) and the Hidalgo County line would be District 25,” he said.

The ruling could affect all of Texas and align similar communities within a district, said state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a McAllen Democrat and one of the leaders of the Democratic challenge to the Republican map.

“Its going to have a domino effect, and you will see more compact districts and not the fajita strips we have from McAllen to Austin,” he said.

“It is a sweet victory, especially after all the criticism we received fighting (former U.S. House Majority Leader) Tom DeLay.”


“Latinos were dealt a bad hand,” said Juan Maldonado, chairman of the Hidalgo County Democratic Party. “(Rep. Henry) Bonilla is not our congressman, not our party and doesnt represent our interests.”

Doggett said he is waiting for the three-judge panel to determine the remapping procedure.

“LULAC and I would be ready to go (on redistricting) next week,” he said.

LULAC is the League of United Latin American Citizens, an advocacy organization that had filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court stating that the Republican redistricting plan eroded minority voting power in Texas and thus was illegal and unconstitutional.

“The sooner these lines can be drawn legally, the better off everyone will be,” Doggett said.

As far as that goes, the LMT observed elsewhere:

A clerk for the federal judges in Marshall said Wednesday that the judges had not yet received the official mandate from the Supreme Court.

The time it takes to get the formal paperwork, coupled with the fact that the judges dont have a set meeting schedule, means it could take a few weeks before things start rolling.

Finally, two other matters to discuss. One, in the Express News, is the idea of nonpartisan redistricting, which inevitably pops up whenever this subject arises:

Rep. Robert Puente, D-San Antonio said he favors a plan long advocated by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, that would take redistricting out of the hands of self-interested politicians and empower the public to redraw political lines.

Wentworth has been pushing the idea since 1993 and plans to do so again next year.

And from the Morning News, what about mid-decade redistricting as a concept?

Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, one of the few targets of redistricting to survive, said Wednesday he will introduce legislation barring states from redrawing congressional lines more than once each decade.

I have more faith in the Wentworth bill finally passing than I do in Edwards’ bill, and I have very little faith in Wentworth’s bill. Not that I don’t think either effort isn’t worthwhile – I do – I just don’t believe that enough legislators share that sentiment.

On the opinion side, both the Statesman and the Chron have their say. Larry Stallings has the State House Democrats’ response, while Vince reminds us all of the phone number for the Ardmore Holiday Inn. (He’s kidding, I hope.) I have some longer statements from the Lone Star Project beneath the fold. And last but not least, Strange Bedfellows takes a fond look at the street in Austin where three Congressional districts meet.

UPDATE: Rick Bolanos, the current candidate against Bonilla, weighs in:

In spite of the furtive attempts by Mr. Bonilla and his cohorts to violate the constitutional rights of our nation, I will continue my campaign to give all the voters of the 23rd congressional district the type of ethical, fervent and passionate representation that they have so long been denied and that they so dearly deserve. I want to personally thank LULAC for their relentless pursuit of justice for those Hispanics who were oppressed by the misguided, avaricious actions of the present administration.

Full statement at Dos Centavos.


SCOTUS throws out CD23, upholds the rest

The long-awaited Supreme Court ruling on Texas’ re-redistricting of 2003 is in.

The U.S. Supreme Court today upheld almost all of Texas’ Republican-friendly U.S. House election district map.

By a 5-4 vote, the court said the 23rd District in Southwest Texas, represented by Republican Henry Bonilla, was unconstitutional because its design violated the rights of some Hispanic voters. Reshaping the district, a task that apparently now is assigned to federal court in Texas, would force a change in at least one other neighboring district.

But the high court ruling preserved the other districts in the Houston area and elsewhere that were created by the Texas Legislature in 2003. This includes a Dallas-area district whose constitutionality was challenged by black voters.

The Supreme Court today also upheld the right of states to change their congressional district boundaries more frequently than the traditional every 10 years following each U.S. Census.

I wrote about this yesterday at Kuff’s World. This is more or less what I thought was most likely. After all that’s been said and done, at this point what I like the least is that the concept of redistricting whenever the mood strikes a state legislature has been upheld. I see very little good that can come out of that, even if in the short term Democrats could use it to extract a little revenge against Republicans.

State Rep. Richard Raymond, D-Laredo, a member of the House Redistricting Committee, said he believes the only way to fix the map is to put Laredo in one congressional district. The Republicans had split it between Bonilla’s 23rd District and Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar’s 28th District.

“There isn’t an easy repair. Any time you’ve got to move 100,000 people, there’s a domino effect,” Raymond said. “The easiest fix is you put Laredo back together

I’m not sure at this point if the three-judge panel that originally upheld the new map will be tasked with putting a replacement in place, or if the Legislature has to do it; neither am I sure if this needs to be done for 2006, or if a special election will be required for some point in the future – this could include an open primary in November, as we had in 1996.

What I do think will happen is that at the very least CD28 will be redrawn as well. If it’s possible to swap the CD23 portion of Webb County for an equivalent piece of CD28, that could work. What happens after that is a decision for CD28’s Rep. Henry Cuellar. He nearly toppled CD23 incumbent Henry Bonilla in 2002 thanks in part to getting 80% of the vote in Webb County. He did knock off fellow Democrat Ciro Rodriguez in the 2004 primary on a similar show of strength in Webb, and he won again in the same fashion in 2006. Without Webb, Cuellar probably can’t beat Rodriguez or someone like him with a strong base in Bexar County. With Webb, Cuellar would have a shot at Bonilla, but I don’t know that it would be better than a coin flip. Either way, it’s a tough call.

And yes, before anyone asks, I’ll happily support Cuellar against Bonilla even though I was an enthusiastic proponent of Ciro Rodriguez this past March. It’s a simple matter of mathematics, to wit:

Ciro > Cuellar > Bonilla

I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to say after I see some answers to the questions I raised above. Stay tuned – this already crazy election season just took another big turn for the weird.

SCOTUS Blog has more, including a link to the opinion (PDF).

UPDATE: From the Statesman:

Redrawing [CD23] will force nearby District 25, the Austin-to-Mexico district held by Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin, to be redrawn, according to the court opinion.

Experts were still poring over the complicated 100-page opinion to determine how Texas will have to remedy the deficiencies.

And from BOR:

The three-judge panel will have the responsibility of deciding what to do with the redistricting map. The first decision is when they redraw the map for — this election cycle, or the next. The second decision, then, is whether they will redraw the map themselves, and accept three maps from both Democrats and Republicans, OR whether they kick it back to the Texas Legislature for them to redraw the lines during the 80th Regular Session starting in January.

Exactly how far the dominoes fall, we’ll have to wait and see. I’d imagine that CD 23, 28, 21, and 25 will have to be redrawn. As we wait to get more analysis, you can play around with an interactive Congressional map of Texas. Click on the “U.S. Congressional Districts” link to get to the map.

More to come soon.

UPDATE: I’ve put a statement by State Rep. Richard Raymond beneath the fold. Raymond was a plaintiff in the lawsuit, briefly a primary opponent to Henry Cuellar for this year, and a sure bet to run for Congress again in a Laredo-based district.


No news is no news

I’m glad to see that nothing important happened while my family and I were on the plane home today. I wouldn’t have had the energy to do anything about it. See you all tomorrow.

Ardmore, three years later

Rep. Aaron Pena reminds us that today is the three-year anniversary of the Ardmore exodus. I expanded on his post over at Kuff’s World.

Oral arguments on redistricting next week

The Supreme Court will begin hearing oral arguments on the Texas redistricting of 2003 on Wednesday, March 1. The Lone Star Project sent out this letter (PDF) yesterday, with an update on where things stand, a timeline, a brief bio of the attorneys involved, and an analysis of what might happen if the 2003 map is ruled unconstitutional.

If the Supreme Court invalidates the map due to violation of the Voting Rights Act:

• The Court will almost certainly remand the case to the three-judge court to provide a remedy consistent with the Supreme Court ruling.
• Given that the Supreme Court’s accelerated schedule allows time for a remedy prior to the 2006 elections, a new plan would have to be devised to fix whatever voting rights problem the Court finds.
• Normally, courts defer to the legislature to craft new lines to correct a violation, but the court may also impose its own plan to take effect in the 2006 elections. Consistent with the precedent established by the federal court in the Bush v. Vera congressional redistricting case in 1996, the Court could order that the March primary results be abandoned and that special congressional elections be held in new and legal districts.
• The most likely scenario for the 2006 elections and beyond would be the reinstatement of the 2002 courtdrawn plan, because it is a legal plan based on the 2000 census that was upheld by the Supreme Court of the United States, and it is the logical default plan in the event the Supreme Court declares the 2003 plan illegal.

Who Might Run?

The seats lost under the DeLay plan were: District 1 (Sandlin), District 2 (Turner), District 4 (Hall switched parties), District 9 (Lampson), District 17 (Stenholm) and District 24 (Frost). If the map is reversed, Democrats would almost certainly reclaim Districts 9 and 24. It is also possible to reclaim Districts 1 and 2, assuming the former Members return or other very strong candidates are recruited. Obviously, District 4 is lost, and District 17 is strongly Republican and would not likely be reclaimed.

I’ve been skeptical before of the Democrats’ chances to reclaim these seats. I agree about CD24, and in retrospect Nick Lampson would be the favorite in CD09. If they did pick up those districts, and they held onto Chet Edwards’ seat in the old CD11, Dems would have between 13 and 15 in their delegation. Depending on how you want to count it, an 18-14 or 19-13 split in favor of the GOP would be a reasonable approximation of the state’s partisan ratio. The former could have been achieved in 2002 if Hall had switched earlier and the GOP had managed to knock off Edwards and Stenholm, both of whom won with narrow margins. Not that this would have satisfied Tom DeLay, of course.

An interesting case is the old CD23, where Henry Bonilla won a close one against Henry Cuellar. As things stand now, of course, Cuellar would get less institutional support in a rematch of the two Henrys than he otherwise might have. Jeb Hensarling at 58% had the next-closest win among the Republicans. As for CD22, who knows? It’s moderately less Republican now, but the DeLay Scandal-Go-Round factor clouds things a bit. Of course, DeLay would not have the well-funded Lampson running against him in this scenario. I’m not sure that any substitute Dem would be able to raise the kind of money needed to be truly competitive in that district, especially if the campaign schedule is shortened. I don’t even have a clear idea of who’d take a shot at it.

Finally, there is another possibility that LSP doesn’t mention. The only dissent in the original three-court ruling came from Judge John Ward, who argued that CD23 was illegal but the rest of the map was okay. It’s not out of the question to me that if SCOTUS punts this back to the three-judge panel, they might decide to go with that idea and limit the do-over to just that district. I’ll guess that in that case, CD23 would become more of a swing district, and CD28 (which picked up most of the Dem-heavy Webb County as a result) would become more anchored in Bexar County. You can do the math on that one from there.

Anyway. All briefs filed in the case can be found here. A decision is expected in the June/July time frame. Stay tuned.

Re-redistricting re-review reactions

Here’s the Chron story on the re-redistricting re-review. The main difference between it and the earlier AP version is this:

Democrats claimed optimism following the announcement that the justices had agreed to hear arguments. “Today’s Supreme Court action agreeing to take up the Texas case on Tom DeLay’s illegal redistricting scheme is a hopeful sign that the voting rights of millions of minorities will be restored,” said House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott countered, “After hearing the case, we expect the court will agree with the unanimous judgment of the three-judge federal court that the Texas redistricting plan is wholly constitutional.”

DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden added, “The effort to deliver a new congressional map was founded in the belief that a history of gerrymandering efforts by Democrats in Texas had resulted in an unfair representation of Texas voters.”


The Supreme Court, in an opinion in 2004, upheld a Republican-drawn redistricting plan for Pennsylvania on a vote of 5-4. Lawyers who monitor such cases said at the time it appeared to leave little room for similar Democratic challenges in Texas and elsewhere.

Then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia, Sandra Day O’Connor and Clarence Thomas appeared to signal they would not intervene in any cases involving redistricting done for partisan reasons.

Justice Anthony Kennedy provided a fifth vote for the majority, saying at the time that the Constitution might provide an avenue for relief in some, yet to be defined, circumstances.

Of the justices who rejected the appeal in the Pennsylvania case, Rehnquist has died, and was succeeded by Chief Justice John Roberts. O’Connor has announced her retirement, and Judge Samuel Alito’s nomination to replace her is pending in the Senate.

Paul M. Smith, a Washington lawyer who was on the losing side of the Pennsylvania case, said the facts of the Texas case might make a difference at the court. He said that because the Pennsylvania district lines were drawn quickly after the census was taken, “One of the things you couldn’t say in that case was their only reason was partisan. …

“Here we have a trial in which the state conceded that the only reason they did the case at all was partisan,” added Smith, who is also involved in the legal attack on the Texas redistricting plan.

Other reactions from ’round the blogs:

The Stakeholder has some interesting stuff from Congress DailyPM:

With scant comment, the court agreed to review the lower court ruling that dismissed a series of challenges that had been brought by opponents of the Texas plan. But its unusual step of granting two hours to hear the case provided additional evidence that the Supreme Court is taking the case seriously. In addition, the Supreme Court set a relatively speedy timetable for the case by scheduling it for March 1, according to Jerry Hebert, one of the chief lawyers for Democratic challengers to the law. “This shows that they are taking this case very seriously. There is a reasonable chance that the map could be thrown out,” said former Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas, a key participant in three decades of Texas redistricting battles. His district in parts of Dallas and Fort Worth was largely eviscerated by DeLay’s map, and Frost was defeated for re-election last November by Republican Rep. Pete Sessions.

The Supreme Court’s order called for the two sides to prepare arguments on three key redistricting issues: whether the new map complied, as required, with the Voting Rights Act’s prohibition of racial discrimination; the constitutionality of a second redistricting within the 10-year census cycle; and whether the district lines constitute an impermissible partisan gerrymander. Adding to the suspense surrounding the Texas case is that four justices — in the minority — stated a willingness to review various constitutional issues surrounding redistricting during the court’s April 2004 rejection of a challenge to the Pennsylvania redistricting map; all remain on the court. Of four others who concluded there was no “discernible” claim against that map, then-Chief Justice Rehnquist has died, and Justice Sandra Day O’Connor announced her retirement from the court but agreed to remain on the bench until her successor is confirmed. That could increase the significance of the votes of new Chief Justice Roberts plus nominee Samuel Alito, assuming that he is confirmed before the court hears the case. Another intriguing element is that Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was the fifth vote to dismiss the Pennsylvania case, said at the time that he would not foreclose possible judicial relief in another case.

Here’s a twofer from SCOTUSBlog.

Houtopia talks about Roberts and O’Connor.

Rob Ritchie writes about The Safe Seat Pandemic (via Aaron Pena.

Matt points out that some current Democratic contenders are better positioned under this map than they would have been before, though they’re still fairly heavy underdogs.

Eye on Williamson doubts anything will change. So does Southpaw.

Drive Democracy is encouraged.

Jim Dallas talks some legalese (in the good way, of course).

Finally, beneath the fold are reactions from Chris Bell and State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos. Click for more.


SCOTUS to re-review Texas redistricting

Here we go again.

The Supreme Court said today it would consider the constitutionality of a Texas congressional map engineered by Rep. Tom DeLay that helped Republicans gain seats in Congress.


Justices will consider a constitutional challenge to the boundaries filed by various opponents. The court will hear two hours of arguments, likely in April, in four separate appeals.

The legal battle at the Supreme Court was over the unusual timing of the Texas redistricting, among other things. Under the Constitution, states must adjust their congressional district lines every 10 years to account for population shifts.

But in Texas the boundaries were redrawn twice after the 2000 census, first by a court, then by state lawmakers in a second round promoted by DeLay.


The Texas case has been to the Supreme Court once before, and justices ordered a lower court to reconsider the boundaries following a decision in another redistricting case from Pennsylvania. Justices in that splintered opinion left little room for lawsuits claiming that political gerrymandering — drawing a map to give one political party an advantage — violates the “one-person, one-vote” principle protected in the Constitution.

However, now the court will have a chance to revisit that issue and the outcome could change because the court’s membership is changing. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor is retiring, and Chief Justice John Roberts has been on the bench just a few months.

A lower court panel ruled that the map is constitutional and does not violate federal voting rights law.


Paul M. Smith, a Washington attorney representing challengers to the Texas map, told justices that the redoing of maps “is a symptom of the excessively partisan approach to redistricting now in vogue.”

“When legislators choose to take such actions, they should be required to demonstrate some legitimate governmental purpose,” he wrote in a filing.

The cases are League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry, 05-204; Travis County v. Perry, 05-254; Jackson v. Perry, 05-276; GI Forum of Texas v. Perry, 05-439.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s too late for any court to give redress for this wrong, if it decides there was one. You can’t give the defeated Congressmen their incumbency back, so even if you reinstated the old boundaries, most of them would be as big an underdog in a rematch election as any other challenger. Besides that, unless you ordered a special election the next chance to do anything about this would be 2008, since the case will be held after the primaries.

Still, that doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be a focus on why and how this came about. It’s important to know that the decision by the staff attorneys at the Department of Justice to deny preclearance was not a close call (via Kos) and that the DOJ has since moved to eliminate staff opinions entirely (via The Stakeholder) in voting rights cases, thus leaving the decisions up to political appointees. Just because SCOTUS can’t do anything to fix this doesn’t mean nothing can be done.

Justice Department voted against DeLay redistricting map

Almost two years ago, after the 2003 Texas re-redistricting map had been approved by the Lege and as the Jackson v. Perry lawsuit first made its way into the courts, there were reports that lawyers at the Justice Department wanted to rule that it violated the Civil Rights act, but were turned aside by political appointees. There was supposed to be a memo that outlined problems with the new map; Democrats have wanted to get their hands on that memo all along.

Well, now they have. The Washington Post reports on its existence and contents today (link via Kos):

The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department’s voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts. It also said the plan eliminated several other districts in which minorities had a substantial, though not necessarily decisive, influence in elections.

“The State of Texas has not met its burden in showing that the proposed congressional redistricting plan does not have a discriminatory effect,” the memo concluded.

The memo also found that Republican lawmakers and state officials who helped craft the proposal were aware it posed a high risk of being ruled discriminatory compared with other options.

You can see a copy of the full memo here. It’s a 73-page PDF, so take that into account. I did some scanning through my archives and found several posts related to this. See here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. A summary of the memo from the Lone Star Project is beneath the fold.

Would this have affected the lawsuit had the memo been released at the time? You’d have to ask the judges, but I’d have to think it’d be yes. Strictly speaking, it should have mooted the lawsuit, at least at the time, because it should have prevented the new map from getting DOJ clearance. And once again, with the passage of time, there seems to me to be nothing that can be done about this. Other than get mad and work harder in the next election, I guess.

Oh, and as Prometheus 6 reminds us, the DOJ built on this success to do the same damn thing in Georgia.

I’m sure there will be more to say on this later. For now, read up on the latest.

UPDATE: Stina has some thoughts on this.


SCOTUS to review Texas redistricting

It’s still not over yet.

The Supreme Court will consider Travis County, Texas, et al. v. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, et al., along with several other related Texas redistricting cases, during its private conference on Friday. They are among dozens of cases the Court will review at the conference to determine if they should be added to the Court’s docket for argument.

In October 2004 the Supreme Court remanded the Texas redistricting case back to a three-judge federal panel, which then rejected, for a second time, legal challenges to the new Texas congressional map, passed in 2003 and followed in the 2004 election.

The appellants, which include elected officials and special interest groups, are asking the Court to throw out the new map in favor of one drawn shortly after the 2000 census. They also want the Court to explicitly define what constitutes partisan gerrymandering — an act the Court last year deemed unconstitutional. If the Court agrees to hear the case, opening arguments could begin next spring.

You can reinstate the 2001 map if you want, but I say once the 2004 election occurred with the present map, it became impossible to redress the wrongs. You can’t give Frost, Lampson, Sandlin, Turner, Stenholm, Bell, and Rodriguez their incumbency and seniority back. The best you can do is to ensure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen again. For that reason, I could see the court ruling that mid-decade redistricting is illegal, and I could see them coming up with a new standard for partisan gerrymandering, but I can’t see them throwing out the existing map and ordering the previous lines to be reinstated. At this point, it just doesn’t make sense.

In June a three-judge panel unanimously rejected the appellants’ claims, ruling the partisan gerrymandering did not rise to a level it could deem unconstitutional. Judge John Ward, in a separate, concurring opinion, expressed concern that the map possibly violated the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, but that there is currently no constitutional test for excessive partisanship.

In making his point, Ward cited Vieth v. Jubelirer, a Pennsylvania gerrymandering case the Supreme Court decided in 2004. The 5-4 decision said that partisan gerrymandering should be illegal, but the Court did not define what constitutes legal redistricting.

The appeals panel split on whether a state can redraw district boundaries when a plan already exists.

Loyola Law School professor Rick Hasen, an election law expert, says the Court’s failure to agree on a judicial test for gerrymandering and the question of redistricting mid-decade may be reason enough for the Court to hear the Texas case. The swing vote on the Pennsylvania case was Justice Anthony Kennedy, who agreed gerrymandering violates the Constitution but was not prepared to author a test.

“Kennedy said he wanted to keep the issue open for another day,” says Hasen. But he also warns that the Court’s liberal camp may be wary of using the Texas case to write a test to distinguish redistricting from gerrymandering. “In terms of the unfair partisan gerrymandering, the facts are not as extreme as they were in Pennsylvania.”

Given how utterly illogical our boundaries would be if partisanship were not the consideration, that’s saying something about Pennsylvania.

Analysis of the latest re-redistricting ruling

Rick Hasen reads the federal court decision from yesterday so you don’t have to. He has some interesting thoughts on what it all means. Check it out. Thanks to Seth for the tip.

Re-redistricting re-upheld

The Quorum Report reports:


Next step would be a direct appeal to the Supreme Court.

Plaintiff Attorney Gerry Hebert has confirmed a federal three-judge panel has ruled in favor of the state in the Texas redistricting case, Henderson v Perry. The US Supreme Court remanded the case back to the three-judge panel last October, asking them to reconsider their decision in light of the recent Vieth case before the Supreme Court, which took up the broader issue of partisan gerrymandering.

Nothing on this that I can find in Google News, so check back later for an update when this hits the wires. As I wrote when the case was first sent back for review, I don’t believe there was anything the court could do now to offer genuine redress if they felt it was warranted. Once the ousted Democrats lost the power of incumbency, they would become underdogs to ever win their seats back, even (in my opinion) with the original configuration of their districts. In short, this changes nothing and would have changed nothing had the decision gone the other way. What we have now is reality, and we have to deal with it.

(Thanks to Kimberly for tipping me to this.)

UPDATE: Here’s the Chron coverage. There’ll be an appeal back to the Supreme Court, but that has the feel of a formality to me. Note, however, that the federal court says there’s no standard for what constitutes “excessively partisan” redistricting. I have to think it’d take federal legislation for there to be a standard. I can’t see that happening any time soon.

Onward from Ardmore

I somehow managed to forget to note that yesterday was the two year anniversary of the Ardmore walkout. Aaron Pena, who was one of the quorum-busting reps, remembers with a link to this DMN story (generously excerpted by Save Texas Reps). One thing I want to point out from this article, which talks about the prospects of an eventual Democratic resurgence in Texas:

“They’re pretty much gone for the rest of the decade,” said GOP strategist Royal Masset.

“Their big problem is not having a base of talent,” he said.

Gone are the national stars that once led the state party: Gov. Ann Richards, Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros. The last Democrat to be House speaker, Rep. Pete Laney of Hale Center, agrees that it will take a long time for such talent to be replaced.

“What the Democratic Party has to do is develop a farm team at the college level and the high school level,” Mr. Laney said.

I’m not going to offer any guesses as to how Dems will do next year at this time. Obviously, I’m an optimist, but then, I was an optimist in 2002 as well. I do think, though, that both Masset and Laney are overlooking something. It’s certainly true that Republicans have a deeper bench. How could they not? They hold more offices. But there is a place where you can find a lot of diverse and promising Democratic talent, and it’s a place that’s a traditional breeding ground for aspirants to higher offices. I’m talking of course about the State House. Take a look at the Historical Election Returns page, and check out some of the people who were candidates for the State House in 1992:

State Sen. Steve Ogden (HD14)
US Rep. Kevin Brady (HD15)
US Rep Henry Cuellar (HD42)
Agriculture Commissioner Susan Combs (HD47)
State Sen. Kip Averett (HD56)
Transportation Commissioner Ric Williamson (HD61)
State Sen. Robert Duncan (HD84)
State Sen. Kim Brimer (HD96)
US Rep. Kenny Marchant (HD99)
State Sen. John Carona (HD108)
State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (HD115)
Former US Rep Ciro Rodriguez (HB118)
State Sen. Mike Jackson (HD129)
Former Houston City Councilman and Mayoral candidate Orlando Sanchez (HD132)
Harris County Judge Robert Eckels (HD133)
State Sen. Kyle Janek (HD134)
State Sen. Mario Gallegos (HD143)

Other familiar alumni of the House include Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, US Rep. John Culberson, US Rep. Tom DeLay, and Governor Rick Perry. Note that a couple of the people named above were not winning candidates in 1992 – Orlando Sanchez lost to Scott Hochberg in a open-seat race, while Kyle Janek failed to oust incumbent Sue Schechter.

Here in 2005, I can think of at least a dozen Democratic State House members who’d make great candidates for higher office, some today and some in a few years. Some of them are in imperviously safe seats, as were some of the future stars of 1992. I believe a good leading indicator of a change in perception of Democratic fortunes will be when you start seeing some of those safe-seat owners giving them up for a shot at something higher. I don’t think that’ll happen in 2006 (at least, not based on what little I’ve heard so far about who may be running for what), but I think you’ll see some movement in this direction by 2010.

Obviously, there’s more to a bench than one legislative body. Having a few incumbents in countywide offices in places like Harris County is nice, too. What I’m saying is that it’s a myth to claim there’s no base of talent for Democrats. It needs to be bigger, but it’s certainly there.

Georgia to follow Texas’ lead

In case you hadn’t heard, the state of Georgia, whose three branches of state government are newly under all-Republican control, are planning to re-redistrict in time for the 2006 elections. MyDD and Ed Kilgore have the details, with Kilgore noting that the new lines may not disfavor the two targeted Democrats (John Barrow and Jim Marshall) as much as originally feared, possibly because of rumbled Democratic reprisals in Illinois and elsewhere.

I will stipulate that Georgia’s current districts, drawn as Constitutionally required by Democrats in 2001, are butt-ugly and serve a primarily partisan purpose (though since the especially ugly CD11 was drawn to make life hard for Republican Rep. Phil Gingrey, it was an ultimately unsuccessful purpose). But unlike Texas, where the many minions of Tom DeLay had the fig leaf of judicially-drawn lines as justification for revisiting the issue in 2003 (despite their welcoming of judicial fiat in 2001), the Georgia boundaries were duly drawn and ratified by the Lege and Governor. The only reason to redraw, and it’s the reason they’ve given, is because the Republicans are in charge now and there’s no one to stop them. It’s power serving its own purpose, and it’s far from the only or most egregious example of late.

Which brings me to this LA Times article, in which the Democrats of California have put forth a compromise to Governor Ah-nold’s proposal to hand the process over to an impartial third party: Fine, but not until the next mandated redraw in 2011. If he goes for that, then maybe I can shake the feeling that he was just offering a sucker’s deal all along. I’d feel even better about it if he held up the Georgia power grab as a prime example of why legislators shouldn’t be doing this work, or the Texas debacle before it, but I’d settle for that. I’m not holding my breath on either count, though:

Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman said the governor wants new lines drawn “as soon as possible.”

“If 2008 is as soon as possible, then that’s great,” he said, “but we’ll strive for 2006.”

If 2008 is more achievable, “why are we spending all this money when in two years you’re going to go through this process again [when the 2010 census is taken]?” asked Kathay Feng, voting rights director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center.

Good question, Kathay. She is about to take over leadership in Common Cause, which has endorsed the Governator’s plan, so this isn’t just carping.

(UPDATE: Oops, forgot to notice the first time around that Kathay is wrong when she says “you’re going to go through this process again” in two years if you do it for the 2008 elections. Everybody will be redistricting again for the 2012 elections, since that’s the first one after the 2010 Census, not the 2010 elections. Her point is still valid, though.)

The article notes that a re-ruling from the federal court on the Texas lawsuit is expected soon, so look for more of this in the news. Georgia map link via PerryVsWorld, LAT link via Lasso.

Still dreaming the impossible dream

Via Greg, I see there are two editorials discussing State Sen. Jeff Wentworth’s biennial quest to pass a bill that would take the chore of redistricting away from the Legislature and hand it to a balanced bipartisan commission. (His bill hasn’t been filed yet, or at least you can’t find it yet by doing a search for it. Out of curiosity, I called his office and was told it’s still being worked on.) I’m perfectly happy to see this happen, and if it does I hope his proposed commission is charged with ensuring that districts are compact and composed of communities of interest, but come on. There’s a reason things like this are called “quixotic”. The Republican leadership didn’t spend six months in 2003 carrying Tom DeLay’s water so that Jeff Wentworth could undo it all.

(Idle Machiavellian thought: Wentworth is up for reelection next year. Do you think DeLay and his cronies will threaten to have him primaried if he gets any traction? Wouldn’t surprise me, that’s for sure.)

I don’t want to let my pessimism detract from the rightness of this idea. The voters should be picking the representatives, not the other way around. One thing that really stuck out at me in Byron‘s post about Martin Frost’s effect on increasing Democratic performance in Dallas County was realizing that only one of five Congressional districts which contain a part of Dallas County is represented by a Democrat. Dallas was a fifty-fifty county last November, but the Congressional split is 4-1. I’ve never said that DeLay isn’t good at what he does, just that what he does isn’t good.

(For comparison purposes: Harris County’s delegation is 4-3 GOP, Bexar’s is 2-2, El Paso is 1-1, Tarrant is 4-0, and poor butchered Travis is 2-1.)

UPDATE: Byron notes in the comments that Wentworth was nearly knocked off in the primary in 2002:

JOHN H. SHIELDS REP 25,265 48.82% JEFF WENTWORTH(I) REP 26,481 51.17%

Wowser. May want to keep an eye on that for next year.

Gaddie on the re-redistricting review

Keith Gaddie, who commented on the reconsideration of the 2003 re-redistricting case here, has a guest post at BOR in which he expands on his initial remarks. He thinks the key to the review may not be the Pennsylvania Vieth case, but the Georgia Larios case. Check it out.

One quibble I have with Professor Gaddie:

In Texas, the old maps made a minority of votes into a majority of seats, whereas the new districts do not. In Georgia, the illegal map that was thrown out made a minority of votes into a majority of seats.

I guess it depends on how you define “a minority of votes”. As has been noted before, under the old map six Democratic incumbents (including the now-Republican Ralph Hall) were winning in districts that were otherwise strongly Republican, meaning they got a lot of crossover support. To be sure, they had the advantage of incumbency, but they still couldn’t win on Democratic voters alone. What we most certainly did not have was a map where any Democrat would have a natural advantage in 17 of the 32 districts.

Now, one of the original arguments made for re-redistricting (and this may have been Prof. Gaddie’s point) was that a majority of Congressional votes overall in Texas went to Republican candidates, yet they had a minority of the delegation. True enough, even if the numbers cited at that time were a tad misleading, but by that logic we should have had an 18-14 GOP split, not the intended 22-10 division (again, this is probably Gaddie’s point). We could have even achieved that 18-14 ratio had uber-DINO Hall switched parties a decade ago when he should have and had a couple thousand votes changed sides in the close CD11 and CD17 races of 2002. And of course that line of reasoning was dropped soon afterwards in favor of the argument that only the Lege can draw the lines, and from there it was an easy reach to a map with maximum partisan advantage.

Anyway. The argument is that the Texas and Georgia cases are otherwise identical. We’ll see if the court agrees.

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.

Jackson v. Perry, Take Two

The Supreme Court-ordered review of the federal lawsuits filed against the Texas re-redistricting of 2003 is scheduled for tomorrow. SCOTUS has ordered the lower court to reconsider its ruling in light of the Vieth v Jubelirir case that it decided subsequently. Rick Hasen gives some background.

The case puts the lower court in a really tough position, because four Justices in Vieth ruled that partisan gerrymandering cases are non-justiciable, four dissenters proposed (at least) three different standards for judging the constitutionality of partisan gerrymander, and Justice Kennedy simply could not decide: he left the door open for future challenges, but rejected all the proposed standards that have been set forth so far.

If I’m reading Hasen correctly, it’s unlikely that the lower court can or will do anything different this time around. Regardless of that, the Texas cases will wend their way back to SCOTUS in good time. What’s very interesting is his suggestion that the ultimate key to determining what a justiciable standard for partisan gerrymandering is (or even if there is one) could hinge on William Rehnquist’s replacement. Check it out.

One other thing to note is that the federal court is supposed to take the result of the 2004 elections into account. It seems to me that if at some point the new boundaries are eventually tossed on the grounds that they’re too partisan to be legal, that could be a fatal blow to Tom DeLay (assuming he hasn’t been indicted or voted out of office by then). His role in pushing for the new boundaries, and the fact that the GOP would have lost seats in the House otherwise, was frequently cited as a reason to support him during the DeLay Rule dustup. So what happens when that stone is removed from his foundation? Maybe we’ll get to find out.

Hasen link via Kimberly, who is also the author of this AusChron story which notes another new development in the case.

Attorney General Greg Abbott released a series of briefs late Friday afternoon, including a response to an amicus brief filed by University of Texas law professors, Travis County, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, who wrote that mid-decade redistricting should take into account the “phenomenal growth” and population shifts in Texas between 2000 and 2003.


The UT professors, along with Travis County and LULAC, argued that the state’s redistricting plans violated “one person, one vote.” As the minority population shifts and changes, those groups are no longer accurately represented by 2000 census data. The amicus brief argues that the state did not make a “good faith effort” to take those population shifts into account when the map was redrawn in 2003.

In its response, the state argues that a “one person, one vote” argument is “an undisguised attempt at a backdoor judicial prohibition on ‘mid-decade’ redistricting” that the court has already concluded was both legal and permissible. Decennial census data is considered “presumptively valid for redistricting,” absent a substantial showing to the contrary. The state goes on to say the claim failed because the plaintiffs failed to meet the burden of pointing out any equal-population violation the new map created.

The brief cites a number of Supreme Court cases that support the use of decennial data as the ‘best population data available,’ lacking any replacement data of equal validity. The fact that the census data is the “best available” is undisputed, according to the state’s brief, and the plaintiffs didn’t offer an alternative or provide a map that demonstrates how the lines could have been redrawn for a fairer balance.

“That the University Professors and Travis County have not offered legal authority is no slight on their research skills,” wrote the state in its brief. “Rather, it reflects that the rules they propose are both novel and contrary to law. Their arguments – by demanding a presumption of unconstitutionality – ask this Court to overrule binding Supreme Court precedent establishing that the burden of proof in equal-population claims falls on the plaintiff and the requirement that the plaintiff offer a means of achieving a lower population inequality.”

It’s an interesting argument, but I don’t think it will get anywhere. The Daily Texan has more.

DeLay subpoenaed in DPS lawsuit

I’m as happy as anyone to see Tom DeLay get subpoenaed, but let’s keep a few things in perspective. First, this is a civil lawsuit, not a part of the grand jury investigations, though it is connected to his recent admonishments.

The subpoena was delivered Wednesday to the Texas Republican’s attorneys in Houston after a failed attempt to serve him personally, said Lon Burnam, the Democratic state lawmaker from Fort Worth who filed the lawsuit.

The subpoena calls for DeLay to give a deposition Monday.


Burnam said there is a “litany of questions with regard to misuse of public funds” to pursue Democratic members of the Texas House who fled to Ardmore, Okla., and DeLay’s role in searching for them.


Texas state troopers were dispatched to find the Democrats and return them to Austin. The House ethics committee on Oct. 6 admonished DeLay for asking the Federal Aviation Administration to locate a plane owned by one of the fleeing lawmakers.

Burnam’s suit alleges that the Texas Department of Public Safety destroyed documents detailing their efforts to apprehend legislators and that its troopers had no lawful authority to arrest the Democrats.

Second, as noted, the suit has to do with records that were apparently destroyed by the Texas Department of Public Safety. What’s DeLay gonna say? “Yeah, I told those DPS boys to fire up the shredder so I wouldn’t leave any tracks. Guess you got me there, Hoss.” Even one of the Killer Ds concluded after a committee investigation that there was no malicious intent by DPS in the document shredding (his committee did not deal with the question of federal involvement, which is what DeLay got swatted on the nose for).

Finally, State Rep. Lon Burnam, whose lawsuit originally was to stop DPS from destroying anything else, has some credibility issues of his own. If it were someone else, I’d have more faith. Burnam has some penance to do before I’ll get worked up over this.

Sorry. Wish I could join the excitement, but not based on what I’ve read so far.

I can report one bit of good news, though. Jerome has another poll from CD22 which shows DeLay leading Richard Morrison by a skinny 42-35 margin; the same poll shows George Bush pulling 61% of the vote. This isn’t that far off from the 47-33 lead DeLay had in another poll, and given the likely sample sizes it could just be noise. Still, every poll we’ve had shows DeLay under 50%. It’s no wonder the Club for Growth is propping him up. And with comments like these (thanks, Chris!) he needs all the help he can get.

Supremes order redistricting review

It ain’t over yet.

The Supreme Court handed Democrats a victory Monday, ordering a lower court to reconsider a Texas redistricting plan that could give Republicans six more seats and a firmer hold on their majority in the House.

The decision won’t affect next month’s elections, though any GOP gains on Nov. 2 could be wiped out later if the plan ultimately is deemed unconstitutional.


In a brief order, justices threw out a victory for Texas Republican legislators, and ordered a three-judge federal panel in Texas to reconsider the issue.

“I see this as the Supreme Court punting right before the national election,” said Richard Hasen, an election law expert at Loyola Law School. “It buys the Supreme Court another term before it has to rethink the issue. Maybe by then we’ll have a new justice or two.”

The Supreme Court has been divided on how much politics should be allowed in redistricting. In a 5-4 ruling last spring, justices left a narrow opening for challenges claiming party politics overly influenced election maps.

The court said Monday that the Texas map should be viewed again, in light of that decision.


The three-judge panel that upheld the map in January said that Congress — not courts — has the power to bar states from redrawing districts over and over. That panel will reconsider its decision.

The cases are Jackson v. Perry, 03-1391; American GI Forum of Texas v. Perry, 03-1396; Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee v. Perry, 03-1399; Travis County v. Perry, 03-1400; and Henderson v. Perry, 03-9644.

I do not believe that any GOP gains from the new map would be erased if it is eventually thrown out and the old map is restored. Other than Martin Frost, every single one of the endangered Democratic incumbents plus the retiring Jim Turner had been winning in districts that ran the gamut from lean-GOP to strong-GOP for years now. Once the advantage of their incumbency was removed, however, they’d have a very tough time winning it back, even in the old familiar places. And that was the point. As long as that new map was in place for this election, its main goal was accomplished. Democrats can mitigate that by holding at least some of their current offices (you can help, of course), but there’s nothing that any court can do now that will change the fundamental dynamic.

Redistricting revisited

Lasso cites this New Yorker article by Jeffrey Toobin on redistricting, and pulls up short when he sees a reference to the 2003 re-redistricting in Texas:

When the DeLay plan was submitted to the Justice Department for approval, career officials in the Voting Section produced an internal legal opinion of seventy-three pages, with seventeen hundred and fifty pages of supporting documents, arguing that the plan should be rejected as a retrogression of minority rights. However, according to people familiar with the deliberations, the political staff of the Voting Section exercised its right to overrule that decision and approved the DeLay plan, which is now in effect for the 2004 elections.

After asking if anyone had seen this before, he does a little Lexis searching and concludes that most of this was indeed already known and reported on, but adds that Toobin’s assertion that Justice was originally inclined to reject the redistricting plan is new information. That’s actually not so – we knew that in January. Obsessive linking and searchable archives do have their uses, you know.

TAPPED has some related information that’s worth your time to check out as well. Lasso link via Roman Candles.

Colorado re-redistricting officially dead

I doubt this will be any kind of portent for the upcoming Jackson v. Perry case, as the issue had turned on the Colorado state constitution, but SCOTUS has denied cert to the GOP in their attempt to get a last-minute redraw of Congressional lines through their legislature. Byron and Luis have more.

Berman piece hits Texas papers

The op-ed by UT law prof Mitchell Berman, which was originally printed in the LA Times, ran today in the Statesman. I’m glad to see it get some airtime in Texas and hope it spawns some debate.

In related news, SCOTUS has requested a response from the Texas Attorney General to this lawsuit.

The U.S. Supreme Court has told Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to respond by June 28 to Democratic claims that the Republican-dominated Legislature had no compelling governmental reason to redraw congressional lines last year.

It was unclear Tuesday whether the request indicates that the Supreme Court might hear arguments in the Texas redistricting appeals.

Abbott initially did not file a response to the Democrats’ request to argue before the Supreme Court. On Friday, the clerk of the court sent Abbott’s solicitor general, Ted Cruz, a letter asking Texas to tell the court why it should not hear the cases.

The Seventh Edition of Supreme Court Practice, a handbook for lawyers taking cases before the court, says responses such as that asked of Cruz are seldom necessary. The court will ask for one if it thinks the party asking to be heard “may have some merit,” and the court wants the other party to explain why it does not, the handbook says.

A three-judge federal panel ruled in January that congressional lines produced after three special sessions in Austin would stand. Lawyers representing five sets of Texas plaintiffs appealed that ruling to the high court, which has yet to decide whether it will hear the Texas cases.

Of five Democratic lawsuits challenging the new lines, four relied heavily on arguments that the new lines diluted minority voting strength. But one lawsuit filed by three East Texans directly challenged lawmakers’ authority to take up redistricting outside the once-a-decade format.

That mid-decade question is similar to a Colorado case the court also might hear.

The Supreme Court has rescheduled discussion of whether to hear the Colorado case at least four times. That lawsuit turns on whether the Colorado Constitution stands up to U.S. Constitutional muster in forbidding mid-decade redistricting.

The court’s latest decision to reschedule that discussion was Thursday, the day before its clerk sent the letter to Texas.

In a Pennsylvania case decided by the high court earlier this year, most judges agreed that purely partisan justification for redrawing lines doesn’t meet the constitutional requirement that there be a legitimate governmental purpose for mid-decade redistricting.

They let that state’s GOP-driven lines stand, though, with four justices saying a clear line could never be drawn separating decisions meant to favor one party from those that incidentally favor that party. A fifth judge in the 5-4 decision also noted that Pennsylvania, unlike Texas, did not have any lines in place other than the ones drawn after the 1990 census.

Also noted by Southpaw and the Free State Standard. As Southpaw notes, this may give SCOTUS a way to not hear the Texas case at all, but we’ll see.