Hang on to your life, liberty, and property again: the Lege has reconvened to take another shot at shoving a redistricting bill through. Before anyone asks, the reason that the Dems (almost surely) won’t walk out again is simple. In the regular session, the walkout occurred on the Monday before the Friday deadline for new bills to be brought to the floor. The DeLay/King redistricting bill had just come out of committee, but hadn’t been brought to the floor for a full House vote yet. The Dems broke quorum to prevent that from happening, and with the Friday deadline, they only needed to stay away for five days. The rules are different in a special session, meaning that the Dems would have to stay away a lot longer in order to accomplish the same feat. Given that the Governor could always call another special session, that tactic would likely be ineffective.
Even if you grant that they could stick together – and out of the reach of whatever law enforcement groups the Republicans could sic on them – for however long it took, they’d be unlikely to get the same favorable reaction from the press. Doing something like that once is a bold stroke in defense of one’s principles. Doing it twice is tiresome and petty. Fair or not, that’s how it would be portrayed.
The House Dems took their best shot. If this is to be defeated, it’s up to the Senate. With Eddie Lucio’s announcement that he’s running for reelection, that removes creating a district that he could win as an incentive the GOP can dangle in front of him. Frank Madla, Ken Armbrister, and maybe Bill Ratliff are all swing votes. If Lucio decides to stand with the rest of the Democrats – never a sure bet given his Sybil-like nature, but let’s say so for the sake of argument – the GOP will need two of the other three to go along. You can bet there’ll be plenty of arm-twisting a-happening.
There’s still a question of which map will wind up being presented to the Senate by the House. At the hearing on Saturday, the weaselly Ron Wilson kept saying that the lines were still being negotiated. For sure, the DeLay/King map will be challenged in court – the expert hired by Governor Perry for the 2001 redistricting attempt says so:
“The overall nature of the proposed plan is troubling,” said John Alford, a Rice University political science professor. “It is a pro-Republican partisan gerrymander on top of an already pro-Republican existing plan.
“It attempts to achieve for the Republican Party in Washington, through artificial pairings and partisan packing and cracking, what Republican voters in the existing districts could already do easily on their own — elect a disproportionately Republican delegation,” Alford said in a written report.
Alford’s comments were in a memo to Texas Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos, D-Austin, who has been spearheading an effort by Democrats in the state Senate to block the redrawn congressional map. Barrientos and others requested the analysis. Barrientos could not be reached for comment.
To increase Republican seats, crafters of the House plan pack Democratic voters in fewer districts, reducing districts with Democratic majorities from 12 to 10 and making all Democratic districts into minority districts, Alford said.
Also, the plan shifts more minorities into districts where minorities already are the majority. The plan stretches boundaries many miles and in odd configurations to draw in minorities from separate areas of the state, he said.
“The focus, in other words, is on the ethnicity of the representative, not the ethnicity of the voters and their ability to elect their candidates of choice — the test under the Voting Rights Act,” Alford said in his report.
The Supreme Court has previously rejected districts that were irregularly drawn and overly race conscious, including some in Texas, Alford said.
Until another map is displayed and approved, this is all theoretical. The Republicans are still arguing amongst themselves about this.
Don’t look for anything to happen too quickly. According to Byron, the House has already adjourned until 10 AM Thursday. With Friday being a holiday, expect the real action to begin next week.