First phase of redistricting trial ends

Not much of interest must have happened, because news reports have been sparse, to say the least.

The first phase of the federal trial examining claims that state lawmakers discriminated against African-American and Hispanic voters when redrawing Texas House districts in 2011 came to an end Tuesday, as both sides made closing arguments to a three-judge panel hearing the case.

The closing statements reiterated points both sides made during the trial, which ended July 19.

U.S. Justice Department attorneys and minority groups reiterated claims that the majority white, GOP-dominated Texas Legislature aimed to dilute minority voting strength when redrawing Texas House districts.

Attorneys for the state said there isn’t sufficient evidence to show the Legislature intentionally discriminated against minorities. Instead, they argued the process was intensely partisan and driven by an effort to create as many Republican seats as possible and protect incumbent lawmakers.

Assistant Texas Attorney General Patrick Sweeten told the court the plaintiffs were relying on “red herrings” to prove their claims of intentional discrimination.

Justice Department attorney Bryan Sells argued the state’s argument was flawed.

“Partisanship is not a defense to intentional vote dilution,” Sells said.

See here and here for the background. For a trial that spawned multiple articles about its deeper meaning and the possibility of reviving preclearance requirements for Texas, this time under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act, not a whole lot of attention was paid to the nuts and bolts of it. This report from Lubbock about testimony concerning claims that there should be two Latino opportunity districts in West Texas, is the only hard reporting I saw after the initial Chron story.

Anyway. Part Two of this trial, to cover the 2011 Congressional maps, will begin August 11. Perhaps that will be better covered by the press. The trials for the 2013 maps will be later, date TBD. In the meantime, the Texas Election Law Blog has an overview of who’s who in the litigation – Part One, Part Two – with more to come. There’s still a lot of this story to be written, even if this part of it wasn’t written about much.

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