More on Texas proving the need for the Voting Rights Act

From the DMN:

“There have been growing arguments that the Voting Rights Act is obsolete and should be struck down,” says University of Michigan law professor Ellen Katz, a nationally recognized expert on the Voting Rights Act. “But [Gov.] Rick Perry and the state of Texas, through their overreach in these cases, may have just saved the law from extinction.

“It is amazing that Texas officials intended to kill the Voting Rights Act, but because of the evidence of intentional discrimination, they may have just resurrected it.”

The judicial panel in the redistricting case even pointed to emails and pinpointed details they said proved that Texas legislators intentionally discriminated against black people and Hispanics. That ruling, according to more than a dozen independent legal experts interviewed by The Texas Lawbook, is likely to encourage judges in other pending Voting Rights Act cases to be more aggressive in scrutinizing the motives and actions of state officials in election law-related matters.


Legal experts say the undisputed evidence and subsequent court finding of intentional discrimination make it more difficult for Texas officials to effectively argue that the Voting Rights Act should be struck down.

“I see no indication that the Supreme Court is itching to overturn the Voting Rights Act — especially not now,” says John Attanasio, dean and constitutional law scholar at SMU’s Dedman School of Law.

At the heart of the legal debate is a provision in the Voting Rights Act known as Section 5. It requires Texas and eight other states with a history of discriminatory conduct to get approval from either the U.S. Justice Department or the federal courts before making any changes to its election process.

Legal experts say that had Texas softened its voter ID law, or made a few accommodations and not taken such an aggressive stance, that the courts would not have reacted so harshly.

Like I was saying, it’s hard to claim that discrimination doesn’t exist any more when two separate federal court rulings have stated that you discriminated, in purpose and in effect. It’s hard to overstate how greedy Texas Republicans had to be to get to this point. A Congressional map giving them a 24-12 advantage, a State House map drawn to be 90-60, and a voter ID law that allowed student IDs and made it easier for people who didn’t have IDs to get them, and they could have won in court while demonstrating to all that they deserved to be let off the leash. Instead, they’re like the teenager who whines about not being treated as a responsible young adult, then crashes the car at 3 AM while coming home from an illegal rave. Trust is earned, not given.

Along similar lines, one of the leaders in the fight against both voter ID and the redistricting maps sent a letter to House Speaker Joe Straus about the Republicans’ bad behavior.

In his letter, Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, referenced the recent federal court opinion denying precleance of the political maps drawn by the Legislature. In that opinion, the judges said they had found evidence of intentional discrimination against minority voters in some of the maps.

“I am attaching, for your review, excerpts of the opinion that speak to the deplorable, despicable and unbecoming conduct that occurred during this process,” Martinez Fischer wrote. “Respectfully, you should know that your senior staff and closest advisors were identified as the source and primary cause of the discriminatory conduct that prevented these maps from preclearing.”

Attached to the letter is testimony from Gerardo Interiano, who worked for Straus on the maps during last year’s legislative session.

Martinez Fischer, the chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, closed the letter by asking the Speaker to ask Attorney General Greg Abbott to drop his appeals on the Legislature’s behalf.

The letter can be found here. Interestingly, at least one Republican legislator has also expressed disappointment in the rulings of discrimination. I rather doubt Straus will heed Martinez-Fischer’s plea, but then I don’t think Martinez-Fischer expects him to. I read this more as a warning that Straus shouldn’t take Democratic support for granted if he faces an opponent for the gavel in January. Anyone disagree with me on that?

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One Response to More on Texas proving the need for the Voting Rights Act

  1. Doris Murdock says:

    Thank you for the extra detail and links.

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