Texas Seeks End to Voting Case After Adopting Court Plan
By Laurel Brubaker Calkins - Jul 1, 2013 12:00 AM ET
Texas Governor Rick Perry is arguing that stopgap congressional and state legislative districts drawn by a panel of federal judges before the 2012 election should become permanent after the U.S. Supreme Court threw out part of the Voting Rights Act.
Perry, a Republican, is urging the judges to declare the state’s two-year redistricting fight over after Texas lawmakers adopted voting maps imposed by the three-judge panel in San Antonio. That vote came one day before the Supreme Court’s June 25 ruling removed the requirement for the state to obtain U.S. Justice Department approval for changes to its elections.
Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican, is urging the judges to declare the state’s two-year redistricting fight over after Texas lawmakers adopted voting maps imposed by the three-judge panel in San Antonio. Photographer: Toni Sandys/Pool via Bloomberg
The minority-rights groups that won an order temporarily blocking the election maps drawn by lawmakers in 2011 want the three-judge panel scheduled to meet today in San Antonioto further change district boundaries. They contend the maps Perry has now signed into law were intended only for last year’s elections and still discriminate against black and Latino voters, who historically vote more often for Democrats.
“That intentional discrimination has not been erased,” said Jose Garza, one of the lawyers leading the redistricting challenge. There will be additional litigation that may postpone Texas elections in 2014, he said in a phone interview.
Texas gained four congressional seats last year after the state added 4.3 million new residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. More than 65 percent of the new Texans are Hispanic, potentially increasing Democrats’ political power in a state that’s been a Republican stronghold for 20 years.
Texas officials argue that the Republican-controlled legislature can legally create election districts that disadvantage political opponents. The maps Perry approved were drawn by the three San Antonio judges after they blocked state lawmakers’ redistricting plan as potentially discriminatory.
Opponents say the judges only had time to adjust the most egregiously discriminatory boundaries to create interim maps so that Texas could participate in the 2012 presidential election. The U.S. Supreme Court had ordered the San Antonio judges to base their adjustments on the legislature’s maps, which were later found to have been created “with discriminatory intent” by a different panel of federal judges in Washington.
On June 25, the Supreme Court struck down the portion of the U.S. Voting Rights Act that determines which states with a history of discrimination must get federal approval for redistricting and other election-related changes.
The justices specifically threw out the Washington court’s finding that Texas’s original 2011 election maps were discriminatory, a finding that was based on a now voided portion of the U.S. Voting Rights Act.
“Because the 2011 redistricting maps” which form the basis of the current San Antonio court challenge “are no longer effective law, this case is now moot,” Greg Abbott, Texas Attorney General, said in a June 27 court filing.
The case is Perez v. Perry, 5:11-cv-0360, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (San Antonio).
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