The Justice Department said late Friday that based on their preliminary investigation, a congressional redistricting map signed into law by Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry appears to have been “adopted, at least in part, for the purpose of diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice to Congress.”
DOJ’s Civil Rights Division is specifically contesting the changes made to Texas Districts 23 and 27, which they say would not provide Hispanic citizens with the ability to elect candidates of their choice.
They say they need more information on the congressional plan to determine what the purpose of the redistricting plan was for sure. But the federal agency came out stronger against the state House of Representatives plan, which they flat out said “violates Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act in that it was adopted, at least in part, for the purpose of diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice to the Texas House of Representatives.”
The State House districts that DOJ singled out were 33, 35, 41, 117, and 149. The other intervenors in the case – State Sen. Wendy Davis and State Rep. Marc Veasey; MALC; Greg Gonzales (I don’t know who that is); the Texas Legislative Black Caucus; the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force; and the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches – agreed with DOJ about all of these districts and added quite a few more of their own, with some detailed objections in Dallas, Tarrant, and Harris Counties, among others. A copy of the DOJ doc is here, and I recommend you read it – it’s not very long, and isn’t particularly legalistic. If nothing else, see why the state of Texas will likely never hire Dr. John Alford as an expert witness again, at least not while the Republicans are still in charge. Oral arguments are scheduled for November 2 on the state’s motion for summary judgment.
In related news, the Justice Department also had some questions about the voter ID law.
In a Friday letter officials wrote that they need to know more about how the state would alert voters to the changes to the law.
Federal officials also want a detailed description of when and where the state will make free identification certificates available, as well as specifics on how they will educated the public about when such certificates will be available.
Texas officials said that 605,576 residents do not have a Texas drivers license or photo ID card. DOJ wants to know how many of those residents without IDs have Spanish surnames.
State Rep. Patricia Harless, R-Spring, the House sponsor of the Voter ID measure, said she was not surprised with the Justice Department’s action.
“I think the questions they are asking are reasonable,” Harless said.
Harless added that the Texas Secretary of State’s office should be able to respond relatively quickly.
Once the Justice Department gets the response, it’ll have 60 days to review it — plenty of time before the March primary.
If the Justice Department denies pre-clearance, the state probably would sue the department and ask the court to overturn the denial, leading to a lengthy court case.
And if the department approves the measure, appeals from opponents likely would be filed.
In other words, expect litigation no matter what happens next. The Trib has more.