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Murray on the Census and redistricting

Professor Murray follows up an earlier post on the recent Supreme Court decision that narrowly upheld the Voting Right Act and considers the redistricting implications for Texas in 2011. The most interesting bit was this:

Had the Supreme Court thrown out Section Five, Texas Republicans would have had a much freer hand in drawing congressional and legislative districts than will likely be the case in 2011 when the new population numbers are released.

In practical terms this will likely block any aggressive redistricting efforts that work to the disadvantage of Latino or African American voters in Texas. Case in point: Senate District 17 was artfully drawn in 2001 to split the black community in Port Arthur off from African American neighborhoods in Beaumont, resulting in Jefferson County being represented in Austin by one Anglo senator from The Woodlands and another from the West University-Bellaire area in Southwest Harris County. A district so configured in 2011 would have virtually no chance of passing muster with the Holder DOJ, in contrast to 2001 when John Ashcroft’s Voting Rights Division did not object to that very odd shaped district.

That’ll be fun to watch. It should be noted that SD17 was a very purple district last year, with John McCain’s 52.1% being the high-water mark district-wide for any Republican; Supreme Court Justice Dale Wainwright barely had a majority of the vote in his race. With two East Texas Senate districts falling behind in population, there may be some tough choices for Republicans seeking to protect their 19-12 margin.

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