Final arguments in the federal redistricting lawsuit should be heard today in San Antonio. On Wednesday, something truly remarkable happened during the testimony of the state’s expert witness:
A Rice University political science professor, testifying Wednesday in a lawsuit over the redistricting map approved by the Texas Legislature this year, said he would have advised lawmakers to alter their changes to a South Texas congressional district and said the changes had invited the lawsuit.
Dr. John Alford, a redistricting expert called as the final witness for the state, also said the approved map would keep the number of minority-opportunity congressional districts the same, contradicting the state’s assertion that the changes would create an additional minority seat.
The new map “improves slightly” the representation Latinos have, Alford said under questioning from two of the federal judges presiding over the lawsuit brought by minority groups, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
Instead of creating additional districts for Latinos, Alford said the new map would strengthen the seven current Latino-opportunity districts, making them more likely to elect the district’s candidate of choice, which is generally believed to be a Latino Democrat.
Alford also questioned how the Legislature redrew the lines for a current Latino-opportunity district that stretches from West Texas to San Antonio.
“I would not have done what was done to the 23rd,” Alford said. “(It’s) less likely to perform” and elect a Latino. He later said the Legislature’s changes to the district had invited a lawsuit.
He said the congressional redistricting plan for the 23rd Congressional district swapped out high-voter-turnout Latino precincts for low-turnout precincts, so the district became more Hispanic, while reducing the influence of the Hispanic voting bloc.
I had to check to make sure this was testimony from a state’s witness – you know, a witness for the defense of the map – because it sure sounded like it could have come from the plaintiffs. Dr. Alford, who had consulted with the Republicans on redistricting in 2001, then switched sides to testify against the 2003 Tom DeLay-led re-redistricting, essentially confirmed what the plaintiffs have been saying all along about the map. Good luck cleaning up that mess in your summation. We’ll see what the three judges make of it.