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More redistricting plaintiffs

Here’s an update to the scorecard, for those of you hoping to keep track of the players.

The Texas Democratic Party officially entered the court fight over Republican-dominated redistricting maps Wednesday.

The new claims by the state Democratic Party came a day after the NAACP and other leading African American groups joined three redistricting lawsuits that already have been filed in San Antonio federal court.

“Allowing these partisan redistricting plans to take effect would violate the voting rights of every Texas voter who is not a partisan Republican,” said Chad Dunn, general counsel of the Texas Democratic Party.

I can’t tell if that is related to this action by State Rep. Marc Veasey and State Sen. Wendy Davis or if they are separate.

Davis and Veasey filed a motion in federal court [Friday] morning aiming to intervene in the state’s effort to get four redistricting maps approved in time for the 2012 elections.

Texas is among the states that must still get pre-clearance of redistricting plans under the federal Voting Rights Act. Earlier this week, the Texas Attorney General’s office filed a “pre-clearance submission” in federal court requesting that a three-judge panel approve the state’s new redistricting maps.

Traditionally, state officials seek out the U.S. Justice Department for that clearance. Texas decided to officially file the request in federal court and “informally” submit the information to the Department of Justice, according to legal filings. Democrats have charged that the state’s Republican leadership is pursuing the court case because they know a Justice Department under the Obama administration would determine the maps are in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Davis and Veasey are hoping their legal action will allow them to argue against the Republican-approved maps in the federal case.

Their motion focuses largely on the congressional plan and specifically the way Senate District 10, currently represented by Davis, was redrawn in the new state senate map. In both cases, the Fort Worth Democrats argue that large minority communities are purposely drawn into districts where their voting strength would be effectively drowned out.

You can see their motion here, and some background information relating to SD10 that was provided by Sen. Davis’ staff is here. As we progress down the line and get updates on this lawsuit or that it will be increasingly difficult to remember which suit is which, and on what arguments and/or alternate maps they’re based. May as well just accept that now and get used to it. (According to this story, “Another redistricting lawsuit was transferred from federal court in Houston to San Antonio on Thursday.” Which lawsuit and which court are left as an exercise for the reader.)

Anyway. The full TDP statement on which the first story is based, plus a press release by Sen. Davis, are beneath the fold.

The Texas Democratic Party has filed suit to prove the redistricting plans created by power hungry Republicans violate the federal Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act. TDP has filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas – San Antonio Division.

The Texas Legislature has adopted redistricting plans for the Texas House of Representatives and for the United States House of Representatives and has submitted them to the U.S. Justice Department and U.S. District Court. There has been no ruling on preclearance. TDP intends to prove the plans adopted are illegal political gerrymanders, and therefore should not, in accordance with the law, take effect.

“These plans are just another Republican power-grab,” said Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie. “They fail any test of partisan proportionality and are constructed in a manner that totally ignores the population groups that drove the state’s growth.”

“Allowing these partisan redistricting plans to take effect would violate the voting rights of every Texas voter who is not a partisan Republican,” said Texas Democratic Party General Counsel Chad Dunn. “The State’s plan is a blatant partisan gerrymander, designed to ensure that Republicans continue to control the Texas Congressional Delegation and the Texas House of Representatives. The plan includes a number of congressional and house districts that far exceed the Republicans’ share of the State’s electorate.”

Senator Wendy Davis and Representative Marc Veasey joined voters from North Texas in legal action against the State of Texas, who earlier this week submitted a request to a Washington D.C. court for pre-clearance of the state’s partisan-motivated, illegal redistricting plan rammed through with minimal citizen input during the recent legislative session.

Redistricting maps in Texas require legal review by the Department of Justice (DOJ) because the state is among 16 states that are required to obtain clearance at the federal level under the 1965 Voting Rights Act before the plans can become law. In an unusual step, state Republican leaders bypassed the normal course for pre-clearance in asking the DOJ to review the state’s plan. Instead, they have filed for review by the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC. – the first time Texas has done so since the Act became applicable to Texas in 1972, and a route that is more costly to taxpayers.

The motion filed by an African-American voter from Arlington, a Hispanic voter from Fort Worth, a Hispanic voter in Irving, along with Davis and Veasey, is a request to intervene in the case and is expected to be approved.

“As I made a stand for public education funding, I felt it was important to make a stand with voters of Senate District 10 because I have a responsibility to help protect the voting rights of those citizens in Fort Worth, Arlington and other parts of north Texas whose neighborhoods were torn apart by this partisan power grab,” Davis said. “I intend to work closely with citizens in our neighborhoods throughout this legal process and do everything I can to see this illegal map overturned and the rights of voters in our area protected.”

As a participant in the request to intervene, Davis is arguing against the overtly partisan map that would set back or be a “retrogression” of minority voting strength in the Metroplex and across Texas. The state’s redistricting plan is designed to increase the number of Republican seats in the State Senate by breaking apart a coalition of voters in Senate District 10 – among others – that have come together to elect their candidate of choice in past elections.

Senator Davis was elected in 2008 by a strong coalition of voters including moderate Anglo, African-American and Hispanic voters in Tarrant County. The GOP map grossly reconfigures Senate District 10 by cracking and stranding the Fort Worth African American neighborhoods by attaching them to a rural district that extends over 100 miles to the south. Hispanic neighborhoods in Fort Worth’s historic north side are ripped apart from their communities of interest in Senate District 10 and silenced in a new district mostly in Denton County. Other key parts of District 10 in Arlington and Mansfield were divided into other districts.

“I will stand along with voters in Senate District 10 and fight efforts to rob and dilute the voting strength of entire communities,” Davis said.

Davis feels confident this map will be found in violation of the Voting Rights Act. In keeping with past decisions, which have found Texas redistricting plans to violate the voting Rights Act, Texas has a consistent record of drawing statewide redistricting plans that have been ruled illegal by the courts. For example, in the 1970’s, the legislative maps were struck down in White v. Regester; in the 1980’s the congressional maps were struck down in Upham v. Seamon; in the 1990’s, congressional districts were struck down in Vera v. Bush; in the post-2000 round, part of the congressional map was struck down in LULAC v. Perry.

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One Comment

  1. blank says:

    My understanding, which could be completely wrong, is that the difference between the cases is the section of the VRA. The Davis/Veasey intervention is based upon Section 5, which requires Texas and other states to acquire pre-clearance. I am a little surprised Hubert Vo is not involved in this case, since his seats elimination is a solid case of retrogression. The cases in San Antonio are mostly Section 2 challenges.

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