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January 23rd, 2005:

Round Two with Three Judges

The Stakeholder points to the UPI coverage of the re-arguments of re-redistricting in the federal appeals court. I agree it covers the main points well, but there’s a glaring factual error that needs to be corrected:

The old Texas map was drawn shortly after the 2000 census, which is the custom every 10 years in states. Ironically, the same three-judge panel approved that map after the Democratic-controlled Legislature failed to reach agreement.

The State House was under Democratic control in 2001, but the State Senate was not. Each chamber passed its own plan, and it was the failure to reconcile those two plans that led to the court-drawn map in 2001.

A thought occurred to me as I read this:

Attorneys for Latino voters complained to the three-judge panel that the plan violated “one-man, one-vote” because the lawmakers failed to use the most up-to-date census figures.

Jose Garza, an attorney for the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the Legislature used census figures from 2000 when there were more accurate figures available in 2003 that reflected the state’s growth.

“The time has come to place restraint on the state’s mischief,” he said.

The state’s population increased from just less than 21 million to 22 million from 2000 to 2003, according to U.S. Census figures. The percentage of Latino citizens in the Lone Star State climbed from 32 percent to 34 percent in that period.

Lucas Powe, a University of Texas law professor, also complained about the failure to use up-to-date figures, and he argued that a Legislature should not attempt mid-decade redistricting unless there is a necessity.

“Any redistricting plan that replaces a valid plan must be to meet one-man, one-vote and a compelling state interest,” he said.

I still have my doubts that the court will accept that argument, but if they are inclined to do something other than reiterate their original ruling, they could use that as a fulcrum. The 23rd CD was a point of contention in the ruling last January because of the reduction in Hispanic voters in it. What might a re-review of the map with 2003 Census data reveal? I don’t know, but it’s not out of the question that the judges might consider doing it. Stay tuned.

Get well soon, Eleanor

A couple of emails have hit my inbox this week with the news that former Houston City Council member Eleanor Tinsley has been diagnosed with breast cancer. I just want to take this opportunity to offer her my best wishes for a full and speedy recovery.