Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force

The 2011 maps are officially dead

Rick Perry has signed the redistricting bills, thus making the 2012 interim maps the official state-sanctioned maps and thus dropping any further pursuit of the maps drawn by the 2011 Lege.

On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry signed all three redistricting bills that lawmakers sent to him.

With his signature, Perry set the district boundaries for the U.S. House of Representatives, the state Senate and the Texas House, his office confirmed.

Capitol gossipers had been whispering that the governor might try to find a way to shove state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, into a Republican district as punishment for her filibuster that led to the death of a strict abortion measure in the Senate early Wednesday.

But by signing off on the redistricting maps, Perry silenced the rumors that he might veto the new state Senate map and seek to put into place the more Republican-friendly maps passed by the Legislature in 2011.

Texas Redistricting had the early call on that. Speculation had been about more than just the Senate map, and Lord only knows what kind of chaos could have been caused by Perry vetoing the only bills that came out of the special session that had originally been called just to pass those specific bills, but that is now consigned to an alternate universe.

Not wanting to take any chances, the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force had filed a motion asking the court to modify and extend the injunction that had been in place barring the use of the 2011 maps. That’s moot now, so the battle shifts back to the formerly-interim maps and the argument over what if anything the San Antonio court needs to do with them given the DC court ruling from 2012 – you know, the one that found evidence of discriminatory intent in the maps – and the SCOTUS ruling on the Voting Rights Act. The last San Antonio court hearing was on May 29, and there’s a status conference on Monday, July 1, but it’s not clear when the next hearing will be. So stay patient, there’s still a lot of this game left to be played.

More time for redistricting advisories

Texas Redistricting:

The San Antonio court entered an order late Thursday afternoon extending the time for parties to file map advisories through March 22 and the deadline for responses through April 5.

The original deadline for the advisories had been today.

The extension came at the request of the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, which said it needed a short extension to review the redistricting  bills and proposed maps filed last week.

The court’s minute order extended the time for all parties.

I’ll be very interested to see how the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force reacts to the Darby/Seliger bills and the Yvonne Davis maps. I’d accept the Darby/Seliger deal if it were up to me, but the Task Force has the skin in the game. We’ll see what they say.

No changes to interim maps

I noted this Friday afternoon, but in case you missed it the San Antonio court has ruled that the interim maps will be used as is for the November election.

Texas will use its current district maps for the upcoming November election, a panel of federal judges ruled Friday afternoon, ending the possibility of another round of redistricting-induced electoral chaos.

From the bench, federal Judge Orlando Garcia announced the next round of filings in the ongoing congressional map challenges would be due before Dec. 1, delaying further action until after the general election.

“We’re really relieved that we can continue with the Nov. 6 election and keep it on track,” Bexar Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen said, adding that she stopped proofing ballots to attend the hearing.

I can’t criticize this decision. The time frame to make any changes, even minor ones, would have been extremely short, and it would have been possible to only address some of the issues noted by the DC court, so at least some discriminatory effects would have remained even in a new interim map. Most of the intervenors preferred to wait till after the election as well.

Although all of the plaintiff groups were united in the view that there were additional deficiencies in the interim maps that needed to be corrected in light of the D.C. panel’s preclearance ruling on Tuesday, only LULAC was left insisting that the defects needed to be addressed before an election.

Nina Perales, counsel for the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, told the panel that she would prefer to see the issues addressed in a more deliberative way – adding that election results from November 2012 could help inform that process. Perales also told the court that she just simply didn’t see that there was enough time to accomplish all that would need to happen logistically in order to adjust the maps in time for a November election – especially with ballot printing and other hard deadlines fast approaching.

Perales also expressed concerns that the prospect of ‘jungle primaries’ in November 2012 (in which candidates of all parties run together on a single slate with the top two finishers moving on to a runoff) would lead to voter confusion and depressed turnout.

Again, I think this was the correct call given the situation. But let’s be clear that the reason we’re in this situation, where the San Antonio judges were forced to choose between allowing discrimination to continue or throwing many of the general election contests into chaos, as LULAC attorney Luis Vera characterized it, is because the Supreme Court ordered the San Antonio court to throw out the original interim maps they drew. Those original maps were based on the last provably legal maps for Congress, the State Senate, and the Lege, namely the 2001 and 2003 redistricting maps. The Supreme Court ruled that the judges needed to use the legislatively drawn maps as a starting point. While I believe that’s a defensible position, here we see its fatal flaw: It allows for the possibility of uncorrectable discrimination in an election. You can blame the DC court for taking as long as they did if you want, but the root cause was the Supreme Court decision that took perfectly reasonable and logical maps that still would have given the GOP large majorities in each chamber and threw them out. Everything flowed from there. And whatever happens to correct these injustices for 2014, nothing will undo the electoral results from this year that are achieved with these illegal maps.

The interim plans

Monday was the deadline for parties in the redistricting lawsuit being heard in San Antonio to file interim plans for the court to consider in the event preclearance is not granted in time for candidate filing. Texas Redistricting summarizes the various plans that were presented to the court:

The Plaintiffs’ Interim Plans

All of the plaintiffs’ plans have substantial similarities, though they differ in the details.

All would add a new Hispanic opportunity district in North Texas, and all, in some way, would restore Lloyd Doggett’s congressional seat (CD-25)- most by creating a ‘tri-ethnic’ coalition seat strongly anchored, if not wholly contained, in Travis County. All also would make adjustments to CD-23- currently represented by freshman Republican, Quico Canseco- to improve the district’s ability the elect the “Hispanic candidate of choice.”

However, there also are divergences.

Proposals submitted separately by MALC and State Senator Wendy Davis and State Representative Marc Veasey would create an additional African-American opportunity district in the DFW Metroplex (CD-35 in both Plan C211 and Plans C202 and C204).

By contrast, the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force and Travis County plaintiffs would forgo that seat and, instead, create a new Hispanic opportunity seat in Harris County (CD-36 in the Task Force’s Plan C213 and CD-36 in the Travis County plaintiffs’ Plan C166).

[…]

The State of Texas’ position

In its papers, the State of Texas, not surprisingly, takes the position that the panel should simply adopt the legislatively passed maps as the interim maps, arguing that the “intent of the State of Texas … is due great deference when the judiciary intercedes in the province of the legislative branch.”

[…]

Congressman Canseco

Freshman Republican Congressman Quico Canseco (CD-23) also has submitted two interim congressional map proposals (Plan C209 and Plan C212).

During trial on the claims before the San Antonio court, the court expressed a number of concerns about changes to CD-23 under the state’s map.

In response to concerns raised by the court at trial, both these maps would create a new Hispanic opportunity district in North Texas that is substantially identical to the district included in Congressman Lamar Smith’s proposal to the Texas Legislature in April 2011.

You can see links to all of the briefs that were filed at that post, and you can see the all of plan numbers here. All proposed interim maps can be found at http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us. To view a map, click on ‘select plans’ and then ‘base plan.’ The congressional and state house plans are filed under Exhibits in Perez v. Perry, and state senate plans can be found under Exhibits in Davis v. Perry. You can zoom in on these maps to see street-level detail, which I needed to do during the legislative process to see which district my house was being moved to. The parties have until Monday the 24th to respond to any plan they object to – one presumes the plaintiffs have already made their feelings clear about the legislative maps, but I imagine they might reiterate those feelings, just in case – and on Wednesday, November 2 there will be a hearing at which the plans get formally presented. This Statesman story and Randy Bear have more, and an explanation of State Sen. Wendy Davis’ proposed Senate map is here.

TRO requested for redistricting plans

Texas Redistricting:

This morning, MALC and the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force asked the San Antonio panel to enter a temporary restraining order to prevent the State of Texas from implementing its redistricting plans on the grounds that they have yet to receive pre-clearance under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

In what may be an opening salvo for an interim fix, MALC and the Task Force also suggested that it likely would be necessary for the San Antonio panel to “devise a temporary court-ordered plan in time for the 2012 election cycle” in order to make sure the state’s responsibility to hold congressional and state house elections is not “completely thwarted.”

You can read the full motion here. As we know, the DC court has oral arguments in the case scheduled for November 2, so there’s no way there will be resolution before the start of the filing period, and it may not happen by the deadline. Keep your eye on this, it could be a game changer.

DOJ says redistricting plans purposely discriminated

Game on.

The Justice Department said late Friday that based on their preliminary investigation, a congressional redistricting map signed into law by Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry appears to have been “adopted, at least in part, for the 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 of choice to Congress.”

DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is specifically contesting the changes made to Texas Districts 23 and 27, which they say would not provide Hispanic citizens with the ability to elect candidates of their choice.

They say they need more information on the congressional plan to determine what the purpose of the redistricting plan was for sure. But the federal agency came out stronger against the state House of Representatives plan, which they flat out said “violates Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in that it was adopted, at least in part, for the 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 of choice to the Texas House of Representatives.”

The State House districts that DOJ singled out were 33, 35, 41, 117, and 149. The other intervenors in the case – State Sen. Wendy Davis and State Rep. Marc Veasey; MALC; Greg Gonzales (I don’t know who that is); the Texas Legislative Black Caucus; the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force; and the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches – agreed with DOJ about all of these districts and added quite a few more of their own, with some detailed objections in Dallas, Tarrant, and Harris Counties, among others. A copy of the DOJ doc is here, and I recommend you read it – it’s not very long, and isn’t particularly legalistic. If nothing else, see why the state of Texas will likely never hire Dr. John Alford as an expert witness again, at least not while the Republicans are still in charge. Oral arguments are scheduled for November 2 on the state’s motion for summary judgment.

In related news, the Justice Department also had some questions about the voter ID law.

In a Friday letter officials wrote that they need to know more about how the state would alert voters to the changes to the law.

Federal officials also want a detailed description of when and where the state will make free identification certificates available, as well as specifics on how they will educated the public about when such certificates will be available.

Texas officials said that 605,576 residents do not have a Texas drivers license or photo ID card. DOJ wants to know how many of those residents without IDs have Spanish surnames.

You can read the response letter for the specifics. In this case, if the state answers the questions to DOJ’s satisfaction, preclearance will be granted. Postcards adds on:

State Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, the House sponsor of the Voter ID measure, said she was not surprised with the Justice Department’s action.

“I think the questions they are asking are reasonable,” Harless said.

Harless added that the Texas Secretary of State’s office should be able to respond relatively quickly.

Once the Justice Department gets the response, it’ll have 60 days to review it — plenty of time before the March primary.

[…]

If the Justice Department denies pre-clearance, the state probably would sue the department and ask the court to overturn the denial, leading to a lengthy court case.

And if the department approves the measure, appeals from opponents likely would be filed.

In other words, expect litigation no matter what happens next. The Trib has more.

Williams in, Lucio out for Congress

Now that the Lege has finished its job with Congressional redistricting, expect to hear a lot more stories about the hopefuls and the not-hopefuls and their plans. For instance, Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams.

With the race for Senate getting crowded, Republican Michael Williams figured the new North Texas congressional seat might just be the ticket to Washington. The former Railroad Commissioner has changed his campaign web site and refiled his papers with the Federal Election Commission as a candidate for Congressional District 33. The district is one of four new seats that Texas gets as a result of population growth. The Legislature passed the new congressional map last week and sent to the governor. The map likely faces legal challenges and has to win federal preclearance under the Voting Rights Act. But Williams’ campaign consultant Corbin Casteel says the new Arlington-based Republican district is a perfect fit for Williams.

“Michael knows if he gets to Washington as a senator or a congressman, it doesn’t matter which, he’s going to be a conservative leader,” Casteel said. “This is a much more direct path. The Senate race is crowded. It’s not going to be clear for several months who’s going to break out of that, so he said this congressional seat is in my home town, it makes plenty of sense.”

Williams first talked about this a couple of weeks ago, not long after the first map came out. Despite his lackluster Senate campaign, you’d have to make him a frontrunner for this seat, assuming it survives a Justice Department review.

Meanwhile, a more surprising announcement is that State Sen. Eddie Lucio will not run for Congress in CD34.

State Sen. Eddie Lucio says he will not run for Congress, even though a new heavily Democratic open district has been created that is anchored in Brownsville.

[…]

Lucio first talked publicly about running for Congress in an exclusive interview with the Guardian at a legislative event at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen in September 2009. The 2010 Census was just around the corner and Lucio felt sure that the huge population growth in the Rio Grande Valley over the last decade would result in a new congressional seat being awarded to South Texas.

Here are his comments to the Guardian in September 2009:

“We deserve to have at least three congressional districts anchored in the Valley and going north. I will work to that affect next session and I will seriously look at running for one of those seats.

“If I lose another 15 pounds and continue to have the energy I have today I would very seriously like to cap my political career… not so much my political career but I would love to address and tackle the issues that are important to us internationally, immigration, health care, water, the environment.

“I think there are a lot of wonderful things we could do at the federal level that would benefit the Valley and South Texas.”

This is surprising because the conventional wisdom was that Lucio, who is on the Senate Redistricting Committee that produced the initial map, was said to have drawn CD34 for himself. There were rumors that he’d vote for the final map, though that turned out to be untrue. He made his announcement on Twitter last Friday; his full statement about why he chose not to run is here.

Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos has expressed an interest in running in District 34. However, as Lucio points out, it has yet to win pre-clearance from the Department of Justice. The Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force has said the new map leaves more than 200,000 Latinos in Nueces County “stranded” in a congressional seat (District 27) where they cannot elect their preferred candidate of choice. On Friday, the Task Force announced it had filed a voting rights lawsuit in federal court in San Antonio.

Stories about that lawsuit are here and here. There was already a lawsuit filed by LULAC in the same U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio, and LULAC is listed as a member of the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, so it’s not clear to me if these are separate lawsuits or not. If they are, I’d say the odds are good they eventually get combined. As for Armando Villalobos, he had announced his interest in running for Congress back in May, well before a map made an appearance. As with CD33, we’ll see how the legal reviews shake out.