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Senate committee to take up interim maps bill

From Texas Redistricting:

The Texas Senate’s state affairs committee has scheduled a hearing for Thursday, April 18, at 2 p.m. (or upon adjournment) to consider SB 1524 – State Sen. Kel Seliger’s bill to adopt the court-drawn interim maps as permanent.

As drafted, the bill would apply to all three maps that are currently in litigation (state house, state senate, congressional).

As of this time, the House redistricting committee still has not scheduled a hearing on the companion bill filed by State Rep. Drew Darby (or any hearings for that matter).

Here’s SB1524. These are the interim maps, and the Abbott strategy that has puzzled me so. There’s no remaining argument over the Senate map, so making that one permanent should cause no grief, but the House and Congressional maps remain in dispute and could be modified further by the San Antonio court even if Section 5 is thrown out, given the DC Court’s finding of discrimination in them. Be that as it may, I don’t expect the process to be as contentious as it usually is, on the grounds that everyone in the Legislature was elected under these maps, in most cases by comfortable margins. As one of the Trib’s insiders notes, the incumbents all like the existing maps. So we’ll see how this goes, but I won’t be surprised if there’s a lack of fireworks. Having said all that, I completely agree with the Express News.

Here’s a better idea: Take to heart the federal court decision that denied preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, and then craft maps that give minority voters a shot at the representation their numbers merit. Failing that, the San Antonio federal judges will have to craft better maps.

The best move in any case would be to ultimately remove the responsibility for redistricting from the Legislature, whose members will always be more concerned with re-election and party dominance than drawing maps fairly.

Clearly, the attorney general is hoping — not without reason — for a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in another case to gut Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Section 5 requires states with histories of discrimination to get changes to voting and election law precleared. Texas is appealing the lower court’s refusal to grant preclearance to the state’s maps.

But even if Abbott gets his desired ruling, that doesn’t mean the retrogression and discrimination didn’t happen. It will simply mean states such as Texas can get away with its shenanigans until — or only if — they are challenged under a different section of the Act, a much more difficult task for challengers.

Lawmakers should reject Abbott’s recommendation.

I’m not going to hold my breath for any of that. For a much more detailed look at the continuing dispute over the Congressional map, see this Texas Redistricting post about treatment of Hispanics in North Texas, and this post about Travis County. There’s a whole lot more that could and really should be done, but what matters is what’s legally required, and we won’t know that for some time.

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One Comment

  1. Mainstream says:

    To be legally entitled to a separate, ethnically drawn district under the Voting Rights Act, Hispanic citizen adults would have to show that they could be the majority in a reasonably compact district in North Texas. The numbers just are not there, for citizen Hispanics.

    In addition to violating Shaw v. Reno, none of the proposed maps creates majority Hispanic populations when citizenship is filtered. Most try to create some sort of fusion of black and Hispanic voters, which are more likely to elect African American candidates like Congressman Veasey than a Hispanic-preferred candidate.

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