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Second phase of redistricting trial over

Much like the first phase, with some insults for one of the state’s key players thrown in for effect.

Lawyers with the U.S. Justice Department and minority groups said in closing arguments in federal court Tuesday that state lawmakers illegally targeted Latino and African-American voters when redrawing congressional districts in 2011.

Meanwhile, lawyers for the Texas attorney general reiterated their claims that the 2011 redistricting was the product of political concerns — incumbent protection and attempting to secure Republican seats in the GOP-led Legislature — not intentional discrimination.

However, the state’s attorney making its closing arguments in defense of the Legislature’s congressional redistricting plan, came under heavy questioning from the federal three-judge panel hearing the case, with most of the questions asked by the two judges appointed by Republican presidents.

District Judge Xavier Rodriguez, appointed by President George W. Bush, asked Texas Assistant Solicitor General Matthew Frederick about a string of emails from Eric Opiela, then counsel for U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, which focused on Anglo voters.

Frederick responded that while Opiela had some role in the redistricting process, that role was limited. He went on to describe Opiela as “an endless source of ideas,” adding “most of which were bad.”

Someone write that down so we can haul it out the next time Opiela runs for something. “Endless ideas, most of which were bad”, that’s comedy gold. Anyway, as was the case with Phase One of the trial, this phase was partly about whether or not the maps are lawful or discriminatory, and partly about whether Texas should be subject to preclearance again, this time under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. We still have to get through the two-phase trial over the 2013 maps before we can get to a decision and the inevitable appeals. As yet, the next trial has not been scheduled.

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