Published: Thu, April 26, 2018
Global Media | By Jackie Banks

State of Texas: Supreme Court to hear challenge to Texas voting districts

State of Texas: Supreme Court to hear challenge to Texas voting districts

"Regrettably the state, led by the attorney general, has continued to want to fight this in court, instead of trying to give Texas voters fair maps".

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday on whether Texas's legislature discriminated against Hispanic and black citizens when drawing two congressional districts and a host of legislative ones.

Minority advocacy groups did not like those 2011 maps, and said they were deliberately created to negatively affect African American and Latino voters.

One day before Perry signed the map into law, however, the Supreme Court invalidated the part of the Voting Rights Act that required Texas to seek court approval of its redistricting plans.

So after all these years, it's not surprising many Texans feel like Lelena Fisher, a graphic designer from Austin.

"If this is not a basis on which a legislature can rely on a federal court's opinion, I'm not sure there's any breathing space left for the legislatures engaging in redistricting to honor both their constitutional and VRA obligations", Keller said.

The Washington court would ultimately find the proposed maps unconstitutional, but the federal court in San Antonio drew interim maps for the state to use in time for the 2012 primary elections. "Aren't we obligated to look at the full picture?"

Texas argues that because the state used the court-drawn maps for the 2012 election, the 2011 redistricting plan that was found discriminatory was never implemented. He said the Legislature was acting in good faith to resolve the litigation by adopting a map it believed the court would surely approve.

Those arguments revolved around the district court's findings of discriminatory intent in how Texas drew the maps.

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The state's chief defense fell on the practical effect the lower court's order would have on blocking the use of the maps for the 2018 elections. The battle over whether the court should be hearing the case is likely to be an issue in the oral arguments on Tuesday.

Gerrymandering typically is accomplished by packing voters who tend to favor a particular party into a small number of districts to reduce their statewide voting power while scattering others in districts in numbers too small to be a majority.

"You have instances where the courts have said this is some intentional discrimination or there's unconstitutional gerrymandering", Rodriguez said in an interview on "State of Texas". "Gerrymandering is probably the most powerful tool in the kit of voter disenfranchisement". But they had to grapple with how to redraw the political maps to account for the state's growth when demographics were shifting against them.

The Texas Legislature is not insane, Hicks offered, but it has shown it knows how to take on redistricting in way that diminishes the rights of voters of color.

"Specifically the 27th Congressional District, which includes Corpus Christi and the surrounding area, as well as one other district that is now represented by Lloyd Doggett, a portion of which is Austin and it stretches all the way down to the Mexican border", political and legal analyst Bill Chriss said. The question before the high court: did Republican lawmakers try to subvert the voting power of black and Latino voters?

Large swaths of the state from Dallas to San Antonio out towards El Paso have had their congressional and state House districts disputed since 2011.

"By not waiting for the remedy in this case, we are not in a position to be fully informed on that question", said Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

In that case, any new maps imposed at the lower court level could be appealed anew to the high court.

No matter what the justices decide, Garza said, "the door is closing pretty fast".

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