A new redistricting map, drawn to promote and protect Republican interests in the U.S. Congress, sailed out of the GOP-led state Senate Monday.
The map, predictably approved 18-12 along strict party lines, would give Republicans a decent chance of retaining every congressional seat they now hold. They also would have a good shot at picking up one additional district with the elimination of U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, who would be drawn into a heavily Republican seat.
During the debate, Democrats complained loudly — and are sure to argue in court — that the plan illegally packs blacks and Hispanics into a small number of districts and fails to adhere to provisions in the federal Voting Rights Act aimed at protecting and expanding the interests of minority voters.
State Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said minority groups were shut out of the Senate’s Congressional redistricting proceedings, which included a single public hearing. He called it the “most closed process I’ve ever been involved in.”
Likewise, state Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, complained that there were no lawyers of African American or Hispanic origin advising senators. The author of the proposal, state Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, noted that there is a Latino lawyer advising House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio.
“I don’t differentiate between House Hispanics and Senate Hispanics,” Seliger told Zaffirini.
The final plan that was approved was Plan C141. It has two minor tweaks from Plan C136 – an amendment by Sen. Seliger that makes changes to CDs 05 and 32, and an amendment by Sen. Dan Patrick that effects a similarly small change in CDs 08 and 10. The latter appears to undo the one change that was adopted in Plan C136, which was the committee substitute for Plan C130, an amendment by Sen. Tommy Williams. Not sure what’s up with that, but there you have it. I presume the House Redistricting committee will take this up shortly, and assuming no major kerfuffles there will send it on to the full House later in the week. No, I am not expecting any more opportunities for public input than the Senate process allowed. More grist for the eventual lawsuits. I’ll have a look at a couple of alternate maps in a future post. For now, this is what we’ve got.
Finally, Texas on the Potomac says something that needs to be expanded on.
Bottom line: If this is the congressional redistricting plan that wins final legislative approval, it will provoke a major test of the Voting Rights Act. Many Texas Republicans believe that the Voting Rights Act has outlived its usefulness because American Apartheid ended five decades ago. But Democrats argue passionately that because of past discrimination, minority districts must be created where the population of an area makes it possible. There will never be a better chance to answer these legal questions.
Given the way Latinos, especially in the greater Houston and D/FW areas have gotten shafted in all aspects of state redistricting, it should be clear that the same old discrimination is alive and well today. If the maps that this Legislature have drawn have not made it abundantly clear that we still need robust enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, I don’t know what would.