A key witness before a federal three-judge panel considering the Texas redistricting challenge appeared to make a major concession Wednesday to the case made last week by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.
The state’s expert witness, John Alford of Rice University, was on the stand to defend the districts drawn by the Texas Legislature for the Texas House, Texas Senate and U.S. House under the Voting Rights Act.
Alford surprised Davis’ attorney during questioning by agreeing that the reconfiguration of Davis’ District 10 into four parts hurt minority voters and turned back the clock on the ability of blacks and Hispanics to vote for a candidate they prefer.
Davis’ attorney, Gerry Hebert, asked Alford, “In 2008, black and Latino voters in District 10 demonstrated the ability to elect the candidate of their choice?”
Alford replied “yes” and that the candidate was Davis.
“Would you agree,” Hebert continued, “that under the state’s proposed plan that the ability of minority voters in District 10 to elect the preferred candidate was retrogressed?”
“Gerry,” Alford said, “I couldn’t agree with you more.”
“Retrogression” is at the heart of the case that Davis and others are making: that the Republican-dominated Legislature drew the lines of some districts in such a discriminatory way as to reduce the voting strength of minority communities.
Remember, Alford is a witness for the state, not for the defense. If this sounds familiar to you, it’s because Alford made a similarly damaging statement about the state’s case in the San Antonio trial. All I can say is that as far as I’m concerned, Prof. Alford can testify for the state any time he wants.