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June 28, 2006
Mixed Bag In Texas Redistricting Case

The Supreme Court handed down a moderate victory for Texas Republicans, ruling that states can redistrict at any time, and that the redistricting plan did not violate the Constitution. The court did rule, however, that the Texas legislature must redraw one district, as the new boundaries unfairly deprived Hispanic voters of political power:

The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld most of the Texas congressional map engineered by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay but threw out part, saying some of the new boundaries failed to protect minority voting rights. ...

At issue was the shifting of 100,000 Hispanics out of a district represented by a Republican incumbent and into a new, oddly shaped district. Foes of the plan had argued that that was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander under the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voting rights.

On a different issue, the court ruled that state legislators may draw new maps as often as they like -- not just once a decade as Texas Democrats claimed. That means Democratic and Republican state lawmakers can push through new maps anytime there is a power shift at a state capital.

In some respect, the court upheld the power of the legislature against that of the judiciary. The main argument in the lawsuit sought to throw out the entire redistricting plan implemented by the Texas legislature after a court-ordered redistricting plan was put into place after the 2000 census. The plaintiffs maintained that redistricting could only be done once per census. The Supreme Court disagreed, noting the requirement of redistricting after each census but declining to interpret that as a requirement for only one redistricting. The decision also acknowledges the right of the elected branch to write laws that overrule court decisions, an important precedent for the primacy of the legislature.

The court extended a minor victory for the plaintiffs in TX-23, currently represented by Republican Henry Bonilla. Ironically, the court agreed with the plaintiffs that the new district inappropriately excluded Hispanics and did not allow them an equal opportunity for representation. Bonilla, of course, is Hispanic. The Texas legislature will need to redraw TX-23 and at least one neighboring district. It seems odd that the court did not take into account the actual results of the election, where a Hispanic won the seat; instead, the court once again put Texas redistricting at the mercy of federal courts, somewhat negating their overall decision.

TX-23 borders districts 16, 11, 28, and Mexico, which thankfully does not yet have a representative in Congress. Those representatives are:

K. Michael Conaway, TX-11 (Republican)
Silvestre Reyes, TX-16 (Democrat)
Henry Cuellar, TX-28 (Democrat)

It doesn't appear that Hispanics or Democrats have a problem competing in these areas. The court decision seems a bit strange, especially when reviewing the districting map. The districts themselves do not appear all that strangely shaped (one has to remember that the Captain is a California native, however!). The fact that of the four districts in question, three have elected Hispanic representatives and two of them Democrats appears to prove that the districts are both representative and reasonably competitive.

Overall, however, the ruling gives Republicans a victory and Tom DeLay a small measure of redemption.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at June 28, 2006 10:21 AM

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» Supremes "Not Meddling" By Reversing Meddling In Single Texas District from Point Five
...At odds in the case was the cleaving of the single Laredo congressional district, a move which critics charge stealthily crossed a bordering line over 100,000 Hispanics, which they noted was unprecedented the first time those words have ever bee... [Read More]

Tracked on June 28, 2006 11:56 AM

» SCOTUS Doesn't Mess With Texas from Hard Starboard
This is the decision that al-Timesa called "a small victory for Democratic and minority groups." A "victory" in the sense that Drillbit Tech scores a late touchdown to lose to Nebraska 77-7 instead of being shut out. In terms of what the plaintiffs w... [Read More]

Tracked on June 29, 2006 8:29 PM

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