Redistricting updates

The redoubtable Michael Li takes to BOR to bring an update on the preclearance lawsuit in DC, in which the Justice Department has strongly contested the state’s House and Congressional maps.

In papers filed [Tuesday] evening in Washington, the Department of Justice made clear that it will vigorously oppose Texas’ request, slamming the state for using the wrong legal standard and arguing that “there is direct and circumstantial evidence that the development and passage of [the state’s] redistricting plans were tarnished by the prohibited purpose of diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group to elect their preferred candidates.”


The DOJ explained that under the state’s new map, the Hispanic candidate of choice goes from winning 40% of the time in CD-23 to winning ZERO percent of the time.

The DOJ also sharply rejected Attorney General Greg Abbott’s argument that only majority minority districts are relevant in a preclearance analysis. In its filing, DOJ accused Abbott of “conflating Section 5 with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court has repeatedly advised against.” The DOJ explained that even where a minority group is not a majority, it still can have the ‘ability to elect’ its candidates of choice.

Using the correct standard, DOJ told the D.C. panel that Republicans’ proposed state house map reduced the number of effective minority districts from 50 to 45 or 46.

The DOJ took issues with the state’s proposed congressional map in light of “an almost unprecedented increase in the number of seats in its congressional delegation – four – resulting from a State population increase fueled mostly by the increase in the State’s Hispanic population.”

Despite that growth boom, according to DOJ, “[u]nder the proposed plan, Hispanic voters will lose ground in their existing ability to elect candidates of choice … even though the number of Hispanic majority districts remains the same [at] seven,” pointing to what it says are problems in CD-23 and CD-27.

There’s more at the link, and Li has more at his own blog as well. TPM discusses some of the evidence in play, emails to and from the offices of Congressional Republicans.

Many of the emails are to and from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), in regard to moving Hispanic voters into one district to make it harder for a Democratic congressman to win his district. In one email, a lawyer for Smith relates that the congressman wanted to move a neighborhood around the San Antonio Country Club from out of the Hispanic district and into his to reduce the number of white voters in the Democratic district.

Instead of going with the much cheaper option of having the Justice Department pre-clear their redistricting plan, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott opted for the more costly route by asking a federal court to do so. Later, he challenged the Constitutionality of section five of the Voting Rights Act, arguing that it infringed on the rights of the states.

Circumventing DOJ was Smith’s preferred option early on in the process. In an April 3 email to the chief of staff for the speaker of the Texas House, Smith wrote that they “agree that we are not going to seek (Justice Department) preclearance but will go to a three-judge panel in D.C.”

One longtime Republican staffer didn’t think that was such a great idea. Dub Maines, a staffer for Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) wrote in an email on June 9 that the “idea of challenging the Constitutionality of Section 5 is high-risk poker with no discernible positive return.” He thought that the redistricting map “has next to no chance of pre-clearance” – either by the Justice Department or the D.C. circuit court.

“The map I’ve sent you has a very high probability of pre-clearing – at least in the DC court,” Maines wrote. “This is the analysis of those who have practiced in the Voting Rights area – very successfully – for over 25 years. I would encourage you to speak with them about the Committee-passed map. They may be from evil DC, but they ARE the premier experts in this area, and I believe it would be prudent to entertain their thoughts on this map!”

As the Houston Chronicle reports, just four hours after Maines wrote that email, Smith messaged Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) to ask him to call Barton in an effort to stop Maines. “Dub Mains (sic) sending emails criticizing [congressional district] 20. May be used against us in court.”

And yet he put that in writing, presumably knowing full well that it would be subject to discovery. I’m not sure if that’s denseness or hubris, but either way you have to admire it for what it is.

Finally, back in San Antonio, the court there will hash out the proposed interim maps for the House, Senate, and Congress. Hard to see how they don’t order something in place of what the Republicans passed, but there’s a lot of variance in what they could go with.

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6 Responses to Redistricting updates

  1. labman57 says:

    It surely is a sign that our nation is going down the tubes when our righteous, God-fearing Republican leaders are undermined — by the Obama Administration, no less — in their efforts to deter minorities from voting and their valiant attempts to minimize the impact of minority votes.

    It’s enough to make Pat Buchanan’s head explode.

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