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From the “Answering my own rhetorical question” department

Nobody could have seen this coming!

Best mugshot ever

Ever since Texas’s “sanctuary cities” ban was first proposed in late 2016, the measure’s Republican backers have painted it as a public safety measure targeting criminals — without racist or anti-immigrant intent. But records obtained by the Observer reveal that some of the Texas citizens most supportive of the law apparently never got the memo.

Senate Bill 4, among other things, threatens local law enforcement officials who impede cooperation with federal immigration agents with fines, jail time and removal from office. To prosecute wayward officials, the law requires citizens to report violations of SB 4 to the Texas Attorney General’s Office. Attorney General Ken Paxton formally began accepting complaints in September, but the records include a stream of phone calls and emails beginning last February. Of 43 total formal and informal complaints so far, most veered wildly from SB 4’s supposed intent, expressing instead resentment of immigrants and even threatening violence.

“These comments are disturbing to read,” said state Senator José Rodríguez, an El Paso Democrat and staunch SB 4 opponent. Rodríguez called them part of a general shift toward viewing immigrants in a “national security framework” rather than a human rights one, adding that “during the SB 4 debate, we warned that the attorney general would receive frivolous, anti-immigrant complaints such as these.”

See here for the background, and click over for the entirely predictable stream of garbage that ensued. In a world where Ken Paxton felt shame he would no doubt be red-faced over this, but we do not live in that world. I don’t know what else there is to say.

One other thing:

Out of the dozens who communicated with Paxton’s office, only five followed the guidelines laid out in SB 4 by swearing their complaints before a notary or submitting an “unsworn declaration.” Four of the five centered on a high-profile incident involving San Antonio Police Chief William McManus — currently the focus of the only investigation of a potential SB 4 violation.

In late December, an SAPD officer encountered what appeared to be 12 immigrants being smuggled into the country in an 18-wheeler. When McManus arrived on the scene, he made the unusual decision to charge the truck’s driver using a state smuggling statute rather than turn him over to the feds. After questioning, McManus released the immigrants to a local nonprofit, effectively shielding them from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

That set off a firestorm: The head of the local police union called for McManus to be put on administrative leave; Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick urged Paxton to investigate whether McManus violated SB 4; and Paxton informed city officials on January 10 that he had received “several” complaints and was launching an investigation.

But will anything come of this taxpayer-funded investigation? SB 4 — which is still being fought over in the courts — forbids any local policy that bans or “materially limits” cooperation between law enforcement and federal immigration authorities, and forces jailers to extend detention of undocumented immigrants at the request of ICE.

McManus says his choice was an isolated decision that didn’t represent a new policy and that an ICE agent had every opportunity to intervene and take the individuals into custody. An ICE spokesperson has contradicted that, telling the San Antonio Express-News that the agency offered assistance and was rebuffed.

Vera, the LULAC attorney, said that the chief’s decision wouldn’t violate SB 4 because it didn’t represent a policy of non-cooperation. “[Paxton] doesn’t have a case,” he told the Observer. “If he had a case, he would’ve filed it already.”

See here for the background. Sometimes it’s just better to think of this all as a third-rate costume drama, available for streaming at CBS All Access or some such. Just let go and lean into the absurdity.

Electoral College lawsuit filed

I’m not sure about this.

Saying Texas’ current practice is discriminatory, a group of Hispanic activists and lawyers has sued the state in hopes of blocking it from awarding all of its Electoral College votes to one candidate during presidential elections.

The lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday calls on Texas to treat voters “in an equal manner” by abolishing that “winner-take-all” approach, which all but two states use. The suit, filed by the League of United Latin American Citizens and a coalition of Texas lawyers, says that approach violates the U.S. Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act. It’s just one of many pending voting rights lawsuits arguing that Texas, which regularly votes Republican, has illegally discriminated against voters of color.

Similar Electoral College lawsuits were also filed Wednesday in Republican-dominated South Carolina and Democratic-leaning Massachusetts and California. The South Carolina suit also alleges a Voting Rights Act violation.

At the suit’s core is the doctrine of “one person, one vote,” rooted in the 14th Amendment. The plaintiffs argue that the winner-take-all system is unconstitutional because Texans who favor losing candidates “effectively had their votes cancelled,” while voters who favor winning candidates see their influence “unconstitutionally [magnified].” The suit also alleges that winner-take-all violates the First Amendment.

[…]

Lawyers have asked the court to declare the winner-take-all approach unconstitutional and set “reasonable deadlines” for state authorities to propose an alternative system.

The winner-take-all method is nearly ubiquitous — only Maine and Nebraska use other systems. If the plaintiffs were to prevail in their cases, the potential impact on presidential elections would be huge. But it’s unclear how far the cases will go.

I mean, if the end goal here is to abolish the Electoral College and install a straight-up popular vote for President, I’m cool with that. There are political efforts underway to achieve this, such as National Popular Vote that I think are both more promising and more broad-based, but it’s been around for awhile and still has a long way to go. If however the goal is to replace the current system with some other kind of proportional Electoral College system, such as the EVs-by-Congressional-district or EVs-as-a-percentage-of-the-state-vote, then count me out. Both of those are too convoluted, and in the Congressional case subject to its own set of shenanigans, and neither to my mind addresses the “one person one vote” complaint in a satisfactory fashion. The problem isn’t that the Electoral College is broken and needs fixing, the problem is that it was a bad and undemocratic idea to begin with. That’s a worthy goal, and one I support.

Redistricting trial week begins

This will be the main event of the week.

Eight months ahead of the 2018 primaries, Texas and its legal foes on Monday will kick off a week-long trial that could shake up races across the state.

The state and minority rights groups have been squabbling for six years over new political district boundaries drawn following the 2010 census. As part of a long-winding legal battle, a panel of three federal judges this week will reconvene in a federal courthouse here to consider the validity of the state’s political maps and whether changes should quickly be made to the state’s House and Congressional boundaries ahead of the midterm elections. At issue is whether the current boundaries violate the voting rights of millions of Texans of color.

The showdown comes months after the panel of judges found fault with the state’s 2011 drafts of the political maps. In a pair of rulings this spring, the judges also found that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minority voters in crafting them.

Those rulings did not require an immediate remedy because the state has been running elections since 2013 under court-drawn maps that were crafted amid an election scramble and later adopted by the Legislature.

But the judges are now turning their attention to the existing boundaries.

There’s an overview of how we got here and what is at stake in that story and also in this Statesman story, which notes the time factor:

Don’t expect immediate gratification. When the trial closes Friday or Saturday, the judges will take the matter under advisement — though a written ruling is expected relatively quickly as the court labors under looming election deadlines.

State officials have advised the court that any new maps would have to be ready by around Oct. 1 to meet deadlines for setting precinct lines and to allow candidate filing for the 2018 primaries to begin, as scheduled, in mid-November. Complicating the timing will be the inevitable appeal that the losing side will make directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

If new maps are needed, the judges likely will order additional input on how to redraw district boundaries, lawyers said Friday.

The maps in question are the Congressional and State House maps that were implemented in 2013. Those maps in turn are basically identical to the interim maps created in 2011 after preclearance was rejected; the Lege adopted them with a couple of tweaks. The state claims that since the current maps are based on ones that had been drawn by the court, they cannot be discriminatory. The plaintiffs note that the 2013 maps differ only a little from the 2011 maps, which were ruled to be discriminatory, and that many of the problematic elements of the 2011 maps exist in the same form in the 2013 maps. The trial this week is to answer the question whether the existing maps are discriminatory, and if so what should replace them and also should the state be bailed back into preclearance under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. This Brennan Center article explains it better than I just did, with more details.

Here’s the Trib Day One story. A couple of highlights:

With Texas becoming less white each day, lawyers for minority rights groups opened their push for new maps by parsing the state’s demographic growth, which shows that the population of eligible white voters has significantly declined since 2010.

When asked by federal district Judge Orlando Garcia how this relates to the 2013 maps, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus’ lawyer, Jose Garza, indicated it was proof that Texans of color don’t have proportional representation under the maps currently in place.

“Even today … minorities are underrepresented when measured against population data and population figures,” Garza said.

MALC also presented an alternative map to demonstrate that the state House boundaries could have been drawn in a way that minimized the slicing of municipalities and created additional “opportunity districts” where minority voters are able to select their preferred candidates.

Creating that type of district was not a legislative priority when the House took on redistricting in 2013; lawmakers only made “cosmetic changes” that didn’t “improve the overall map for minority opportunity,” former state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer testified before the court.

In 2011, state lawmakers drew legislative and congressional maps following the 2010 census, but they were immediately challenged in court on the basis that they diluted the voting strength of Hispanic and black voters. The court drew interim maps amid an election scramble, and the Legislature in 2013 moved to adopt them.

Martinez Fischer argued that efforts to improve those maps for minority representation were rebuffed by the Republican majority.

“It was almost all upon deaf ears,” Martinez Fischer said.

All the plaintiffs’ briefs for the trial can be found here. The demonstration map mentioned in the story for the State House is H391, and C285 is for Congress, with the former drawn by MALC and the latter by MALC, LULAC, and the Perez plaintiffs. There more of these – go to http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us/, choose a Shaded Plan, change the Category to All, and scroll down. The last maps listed for each type will be the ones being shown in the trial. Michael Li of the Brennan Center is live-tweeting the trial, so follow along with him for the play-by-play. I’ll do my best to keep up as well.

ACLU files for injunction against SB4

From the inbox:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the ACLU of Texas filed the first motion today to block the anti-immigrant and anti-law enforcement Texas Senate Bill (SB4) before it takes effect. This is the next step in the organization’s effort to strike down SB4.

The law, recently signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, strips localities and local law enforcement in the state of the authority to determine how to best use their limited resources to ensure the safety of their communities. The law also turns Texas into a “show me your papers” state. Law enforcement leaders throughout Texas and the country strongly oppose the law.

The motion, filed on behalf of the plaintiffs Texas LULAC and its members, the City of El Cenizo, the City’s Mayor Raul Reyes and Maverick County and elected officials of the County, asks the federal district court in San Antonio to fast track a ruling on the constitutionality of SB4. In this motion, the ACLU demonstrates that SB4 violates numerous fundamental constitutional rights and principles.

“Governor Abbott and his allies in the legislature enacted the harshest anti-immigration law in the country, ignoring the concerned voices of many Texans who stood in solidarity with our immigrant communities,” said Edgar Saldivar, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Texas. “Not only will SB4 lead to wholesale racial profiling, it is so vaguely written that local officials and law enforcement agencies are essentially left to guess whether their policies and practices would violate the law. We’re proud to lead the charge on this important next step in the legal battle to keep this calamitous legislation from taking effect on September 1.”

“SB4 is patently unconstitutional. Under SB4, local authorities will be unable to serve their constituents,” said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. “Local officials won’t be able to keep Texans safe and will be forced to carry out harsh discriminatory policies that hurt their communities.”

The ACLU’s co-counsel are Luis Roberto Vera, Jr., LULAC’s National General Counsel, and Renea Hicks of the Law Office of Max Renea Hicks.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, submitted a declaration in support of the ACLU’s motion filed today. Gupta is a former head of the Civil Rights Division at the U.S. Department of Justice.

SB4 Application for Preliminary Injunction:
https://www.aclutx.org/sites/default/files/sb4_application_for_preliminary_injunction_6.5.17.pdf

See here and here for the background. This occurred after the AG’s office filed a motion in the Austin court to consolidate the other anti-SB4 lawsuits with the lawsuit he filed to declare the law constitutional. Among other things, the courts are going to have to decide which of them will be the court in which all the action takes place. For now, there’s a lot of parallel activity going on. I can see this escalating quickly.

In the meantime, go read this NBC Latino story for the backdrop against which all this takes place.

Supporters of SB4 balk at suggestions the immigration enforcement law may foster racism or encourage discrimination, but as they try to enact it on Sept. 1, it will be impossible to ignore the state’s history of racism and the current challenges for Texans of Mexican descent.

Consider that, during the period from 1848 to 1928, at least 232 people of Mexican descent were killed by mob violence or lynchings in Texas — some committed at the hands of Texas Rangers, according to research by William D. Carrigan and Clive Webb, authors of “Forgotten Dead: Mob Violence Against Mexicans in the United States.” Texas led 12 states in killings of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, the authors solidly documented.

In addition, the effort to place Texas under the anti-discrimination provisions of the Voting Rights Act was the genesis of the 1975 expansion of the act to extend its protections of voting rights of Latinos and other people who were then called “language minorities.”

More recently, Texas’ voter ID law, enacted in 2013, has been struck down in a series of court decisions that found it discriminatory.

Also, Texas’ education board only added Mexican-American studies as an elective course to its public school curriculum in 2014.

“For Texas it really has been a slow march to effective citizenship for Mexican-Americans,” said John Morán González, director of the Center for Mexican American Studies at University of Texas at Austin.

Read the whole thing. You can argue with its premise or with the assertion that SB4 is racist, but you still have to grapple with the history. The DMN has more.

State files motion to combine all the “sanctuary cities” lawsuits

This isn’t a surprise, but there is a bit of a twist.

Best mugshot ever

In a filing late Thursday, Attorney General Ken Paxton asked a federal district court in Austin to absorb two other legal challenges that have been filed against the ban in San Antonio, which is seen as a friendlier venue toward opponents of the law.

In May, the city of El Cenizo became the first jurisdiction to file suit to block the ban. El Paso County followed a few weeks later.

But Texas had filed a pre-emptive lawsuit May 7 asking for the Austin district court to rule the ban constitutional. Because Texas had filed its suit first, Paxton argued in his motion, the cases should be tried in the court it had petitioned under a concept known as the “first-filed” rule.

“The El Paso case (in the San Antonio Division) and this case ask the courts to decide the same legal issues because they are essentially the same case,” Paxton wrote. “Since this case was first-filed, the interests of justice and judicial economy warrant consolidating these cases in the Austin Division.”

Because Texas had filed its suit first in the Austin Division, Paxton said, that court should determine whether other cases should be “dismissed, stayed, transferred or consolidated.”

Paxton also argued that the legal challenges in the San Antonio court should be stopped because the plaintiffs, which include El Paso and El Cenizo, had no connection to that jurisdiction.

“The proper venue for the El Paso case lies in Austin,” he wrote. “There is no substantial connection to San Antonio and plaintiffs sued the Governor and Attorney General in their official capacities. Suits against government officials in their official capacities should be brought in the division from where those officials primarily perform their duties.”

The motion could mean that jurisdictions and groups that had signed on to lawsuits as plaintiffs — like El Paso, El Cenizo and the League of United Latin American Citizens — will now become defendants in the state’s original suit.

[…]

Mimi Marziani, executive director of the Texas Civil Rights Project that is representing the Texas Organizing Project Education Fund, said the state is trying to intimidate civil rights groups to make them wary of joining suits against the ban.

“It’s clear that Texas is seeking to punish civil rights organizations that have bravely stood up against the State and prevent additional groups from coming forward,” she said in a written statement. “Indeed, their lawsuit does not include any specific allegations against groups like our client.”

See here, here, and here for the background. I presume that Paxton will eventually amend his motion to encompass the San Antonio/Austin lawsuit as well. I Am Not A Lawyer, so it is not clear to me what the advantage to Paxton is in doing this, other than his apparent belief that the court he filed in is more amenable to his argument than the San Antonio court. Plaintiffs usually have some burden of proof on them, so you’d think that being the defendant would be the less onerous task, but again, I don’t know what I’m talking about, so any actual attorneys out there are encouraged to weigh in. I do believe that this is intended to intimidate any other potential litigants, though I don’t think it will be successful on that front. In any event, I’ll be keeping an eye on this.

ACLU joins first “sanctuary cities” lawsuit

From the inbox:

The ACLU of Texas and the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project have joined the lawsuit challenging Texas Senate Bill 4 (SB4), which demands that local governments and their employees engage in federal immigration enforcement practices. The case, City of El Cenizo, Texas, et al. v. State of Texas, et al., was filed earlier this month on behalf of a group of local governments and law enforcement officials whose rights and ability to serve their own constituents are imperiled by SB4. The Plaintiffs include the City of El Cenizo, El Cenizo Mayor Raul L. Reyes, Maverick County, Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber, Maverick County Constable Mario A. Hernandez, and the Texas State League of United Latin American Citizens (Texas LULAC).

“As the leader of a diverse community along the South Texas border, I am challenging SB4 because it will undo the decades of work to build trust with the immigrant community and to use our scarce resources to increase public safety. We will not be part of Trump’s deportation force,” said Raul Reyes, mayor of El Cenizo. “This lawsuit will give a voice to the people and families that live in fear because of SB4.”

“By joining as co-counsel for the City of El Cenizo, Mayor Reyes, and the other courageous plaintiffs who sued the state, we aim to protect the civil liberties of immigrant communities,” said Edgar Saldivar, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Texas. “The Constitution does not allow the State of Texas to enact laws that threaten immigrants and the local officials entrusted to protect them. Today, we assert our resistance to the state’s pervasive attacks on vulnerable people and say to Gov. Abbott, see you in court.”

“Under SB4, local authorities will lose control over public safety and Texans will suffer from discrimination because of the color of their skin, accents or background,” said Lee Gelernt, ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project deputy director.

The El Cenizo lawsuit was filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division. The ACLU will serve as co-counsel with Luis Roberto Vera, Jr., LULAC’s National General Counsel, and Renea Hicks of the Law Office of Max Renea Hicks.

See here for the background. There is also the El Paso County lawsuit, which is different in nature due to a previous lawsuit settlement that may put El Paso in conflict with SB4. The city of San Antonio may get into the act in the near future, and once the pension reform bill is signed there will be pressure on Mayor Turner to address the issue as well. I’m happy to see as many lawsuits against this atrocity as possible.

First anti-“sanctuary cities” lawsuit filed

That was quick.

Senate Bill 4 has drawn its first lawsuit.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, Maverick County and the city of El Cenizo sued the state of Texas on Monday, claiming that SB 4 has failed to properly define a “sanctuary city,” and that the city and county — both on the border with Mexico — have kept their residents safe by choosing to operate as sanctuaries since 1999.

El Cenizo, in Webb County, has about 3,300 residents, many of whom are undocumented immigrants. The lawsuit claims that “Plaintiffs are safer when all people, including undocumented immigrants, feel safe when their local law enforcement officers can be trusted for reporting crimes or just speaking with them about issues in the community.”

[…]

El Cenizo and Maverick County’s lawsuit, filed in a San Antonio federal court, argues that the new law violates both the Texas and U.S. constitutions.

A copy of the lawsuit is here. As the story notes, this came one day after the pre-emptive lawsuit filed by Ken Paxton to get SB4 declared constitutional. That lawsuit named Travis County and the city of Austin as defendants, while this one was filed against Texas by Maverick County and the city of El Cenizo, which as KSAT notes has had a “safe haven” ordinance in place since 1999, which by some miracle has not put the entire state into mortal jeopardy. I am sure there will be more lawsuits to come, and I won’t be surprised if there are some conflicting rulings. It’s going to take some time to sort all this out.

Court rules several Congressional districts were illegally drawn

Bam!

Some of Texas’ 36 congressional districts violate either the U.S. Constitution or the federal Voting Rights Act, a panel of federal judges ruled Friday.

In a long-delayed ruling, the judges ruled 2-1 that the Texas Legislature must redraw the political maps it most recently used for the 2016 elections.

Specifically, they pointed to Congressional District 23, which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso, takes in most of the Texas-Mexico border and is represented by Republican Will Hurd of Helotes; Congressional District 27, represented by Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi; and Congressional District 35, a Central Texas district represented by Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.

The 166-page ruling by the San Antonio-based district was the latest in a complicated case that dates back to 2011, and comes just two election cycles away from the next U.S. Census — when the state would draw a new map under normal circumstances.

In 2013, the district court found evidence that lawmakers intentionally discriminated when redrawing the boundaries. But the U.S. Supreme Court soon complicated the case when it struck down a key section of the Voting Rights Act that had forced Texas to seek permission before making changes to election procedures.

But that didn’t end the legal battle. The U.S. Department of Justice and other plaintiffs pressed on in the case, and Texas held elections using interim maps drawn by judges.

In its decision Friday, the court still found that “mapdrawers acted with an impermissible intent to dilute minority voting strength or otherwise violated the Fourteenth Amendment” of the Constitution.

“The Court finds that this evidence persuasively demonstrates that mapdrawers intentionally packed [concentrated certain populations] and cracked [diluted certain populations] on the basis of race (using race as a proxy for voting behavior) with the intent to dilute minority voting strength,” U.S. District Judges Orlando Garcia and Xavier Rodriguez wrote in the majority opinion.

In his dissenting opinion, Judge Jerry Smith of the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals called the case moot under previous rulings, and he  sharply criticized the Justice Department.

Tale about a Friday news dump – I literally saw this on Facebook just before going to bed Friday night. We have been waiting forever for a ruling in this case. Note that this is only half of what we have been waiting for – there is still a ruling to come on the State House map, too. But for now, the status of the 2018 elections has changed. The Lone Star Project adds on.

The court singled out violations in the Corpus Christi region involving District 27 (Farenthold – R), in the South Texas/Border region involving District 23 (Hurd – R) and in the Austin to San Antonio region involving District 35 (Doggett – D). The Court also ruled that minority voters in the Dallas/Fort Worth area were illegally cracked under the 2011 map.

While it is too early to know exactly what changes will be made, it is fair to read the opinion as requiring that Hispanic voters put into Anglo-controlled CD27 in the current map must be returned to an effective Hispanic district, that Hispanic voting strength weakened in District 23 must be restored, and that District 35 in the Austin to San Antonio corridor will have to be modified to reunite minority voters in a far less fragmented district centered in Austin.

In Dallas/Fort Worth, the creation of District 33 (Veasey – D) in the current map may have resolved some of the blatant violations under the 2011 map; however, arguments will be made to repair remaining cracked Hispanic and African American neighborhoods in Dallas and Tarrant counties.

The ruling is a major victory for minority citizens and their advocates before the court. Minority advocacy groups including LULAC, NAACP, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and citizen plaintiff groups led by Congressman Marc Veasey and State Representative Eddie Rodriguez had the courage to challenge the GOP map and the tenacity to stay with a long and difficult court battle. Their efforts have defended and protected the voting rights of thousands of otherwise disenfranchised Texas citizens. The Lone Star Project has been engaged in the Texas redistricting battle from the onset and will continue to provide support to key plaintiffs in this important effort.

We should expect the San Antonio Court to schedule a hearing soon to discuss the additional deliberations needed to fully resolve the case and to reach a final remedy. It is also likely that Governor Greg Abbott will refuse give up Texas GOP efforts to protect a discriminatory redistricting process and will direct state attorneys to explore appeal options.

I’d say it’s not “likely” that Abbott appeals, it’s a 100% gold-plated certainty. Rick Hasen quotes from the majority decision to explain what that “minority voters in the Dallas/Fort Worth area were illegally cracked under the 2011 map” means:

Plaintiffs have established a § 2 violation, both in terms of intent and effect, in South/West Texas. Plaintiffs have shown that seven compact majority-HCVAP districts could and should be drawn there that would substantially address the § 2 rights of Hispanic voters in South/West Texas, including Nueces County. Defendants’ decision to place Nueces County Hispanic voters in an Anglo district had the effect and was intended to dilute their opportunity to elect their candidate of choice.

Meanwhile, race predominated in the drawing of CD35, and Defendants’ decision to place majority- in Travis County was not to comply with the VRA but to minimize the number of Democrat districts in the plan overall. Plaintiffs have established a Shaw-type equal protection violation with regard to CD35. Plaintiffs also establish a Shaw-type equal protection violation with regard to CD23. In addition, Defendants’ manipulation of Latino voter turnout and cohesion in CD23 denied Latino voters equal opportunity and had the intent and effect of diluting Latino voter opportunity. Nueces County Hispanics and Hispanic voters in CD23 have proved their § 2 results and intentional vote dilution claims. The configurations of CD23, CD27, and CD35 in Plan C185 are therefore invalid.

Plaintiffs fail to proffer a demonstration plan accompanied by sufficient evidence to demonstrate that additional compact minority districts could be drawn in DFW or Houston, taking into account traditional redistricting principles and communities of interest. However, they are not precluded from raising § 2 results claims with regard to Plan C235 during the trial on that plan. Plaintiffs have proved intentional vote dilution through packing and cracking in DFW and also establish a Shaw-type racial gerrymandering claim with regard to CD26, but not CD6. However, they fail to prove intentional vote dilution in the Houston area, and fail to prove that mapdrawers acted with racially discriminatory purpose when drawing the districts represented by the African-American Congresspersons.

Well, okay, we’ll need to see a proposed remedy to understand what that means, but the bottom line is that four districts could be directly affected – CDs 23, 26, 27, and 35 – with ancillary changes to some number of adjoining districts. In a subsequent post, Hasen provides some extra guidance to this decision.

2. Bail in. It probably is not obvious to those not steeped in this area, but the big fight here is not about these particular districts (although that is important) but whether Texas gets put back under Section 5 preclearance for up to 10 years. That is possible under Section 3, the “bail-in” provision of the VRA which gives a court the ability to impose preclearance after a finding of intentional race discrimination. That finding is here, and the case is still going to go forward on that issue (as well as some other issues). Further, the finding of intentional race discrimination will almost certainly be relied on if, as I expect, the trial court in the Texas voter id case, finds intentional racial discrimination and orders bail in. So this is huge. (The caveat is how a Trump DOJ would enforce such rights if Trump is still in office. I’m not optimistic, and there’s no appeal of a DOJ decision to grant preclearance. Preclearance of post-2020 redistricting will depend on who wins the 2020 presidential elections.)

3. Race or party. I have been writing a lot about the race or party question: what to do about claims of racial discrimination when, as in the American South, race and party are so closely correlated. The majority approach, is subtle and sophisticated on this question, and seems to fall mostly on the party as a proxy for race (“party as race”) approach to the question. When you make it harder for minority voters to exercise political power for your own political reasons (such as protecting incumbents or your party), this counts as intentional race discrimination. Judge Smith takes the “race or party” approach, and he believes he knows what’s “really” going on: this is all about party, rather than race. It is either blind to the realities or ignoring the fact that these two criteria are really inseparable in Texas.

4. The remedy and what comes next. The trial court does not order anything to happen right now. The parties will fight about the remedy. Likely Texas will get a chance to redraw districts with some deference to Texas as to that which is not a violation. The parties will fight over the plans. And this will get dragged out. But presumably there will be new maps in place for the 2018 congressional elections, unless the Supreme Court intervenes. I fully expect Texas to try to get the Supreme Court to intervene in the interim. At most these lines would last 2 elections, and then we are back to a new round of redistricting. And this shows what is lost by preclearance. We’ve now had three elections that arguably should never have taken place under these lines.

There’s more, so read the rest. If this case proceeds from here as the post-2003 redistricting litigation did, we will get a bunch of November of 2018 special elections in these Congressional districts, with the possibility of special elections in some number of redrawn State House districts as well. If that doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, then you’re reading the wrong blog. Daily Kos and the Chron have more.

Motion filed to compel redistricting ruling

From the Lone Star Project:

The major plaintiffs challenging the Texas congressional and State House boundaries filed a joint motion earlier today to compel the three-judge federal district court in San Antonio to finally issue a decision on their claims that the Texas maps adopted in 2011 are discriminatory in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution. The motion can be viewed and downloaded here.

The current Texas congressional and State House maps are based on interim plans ordered by the Court in 2012; however, these plans retain many of the features that plaintiffs argue discriminate against Hispanic and African American voters – specifically in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, the border region, Travis County and Dallas/Fort Worth.

The motion lays out plainly that continued delay not only allows ongoing harm to minority voters but could prevent resolution of the case before a new census is taken:

“Plaintiffs make this request out of concern that without resolution of their claims regarding the 2011 redistricting plans for the Texas House of Representatives and Texas Congressional districts, redistricting plans adopted to disadvantage minority voters will not be completely remedied in time for yet another election in 2018. In addition, Plaintiffs fear that any further delay in the entry of judgment on their claims, when considering the remaining issues yet to be litigated and concomitant potential appeals, may be overlapped by the release of a new census in 2021. Thus, further delay may interfere with a final and complete resolution of Plaintiffs’ claims.”

A decision from the court is long overdue. It has been nearly six years since the complaints were initially filed and more than two years since the trial on the merits of the case concluded. Plaintiffs’ detail the degree to which the case has dragged on:

“The current status of this case has remained unchanged since the 2014 trial (now over 28 months) and since this Court’s order denying Plaintiffs a preliminary injunction. The litigants in this cause have had two trials totaling hundreds of hours of testimony and thousands of pages of exhibits and evidence. All pending issues have been briefed extensively. Plaintiffs have survived multiple attempts to dismiss this cause of action. There has been one interlocutory appeal and more contentious appeals loom on the horizon. It has been 2,063 days since the filing of this lawsuit. It has been 1,748 days since this Court ordered its second interim maps. It has been 758 days since final post trial briefing was filed in this cause. In the ensuing elections, more than 19 million votes have been cast in Texas general elections using maps that plaintiffs contend violate the United States Constitution and federal law.”

While expressing their understanding of the complexity of the case and the difficulty of the issues to be resolved, the plaintiffs make clear that they will seek relief in an appellate court if the District Court does not rule on the case by January 17, 2017:

“Plaintiffs therefore respectfully request an entry of judgment no later than January 17, 2017. Should no order be forthcoming from this Court in the near future, private plaintiffs will consider this motion effectively denied. In that event, we will have no alternative but to seek appropriate appellate review and relief directing this Court to take action by a date certain. Cf. Veasey v. Abbott, 136 S. Ct. 1823, 194 L. Ed. 2d 828 (2016) (in which the U.S. Supreme Court directed the Fifth Circuit to resolve the Texas photo ID challenge by a date certain and inviting the plaintiffs to return to the Court for relief if no decision was reached in the Fifth Circuit by the Supreme Court’s deadline).”

As a reminder, the trials over whether the Legislature discriminated against minority voters in redrawing legislative and Congressional districts ended in 2014. Over a year later, the plaintiffs unsuccessfully asked for the court to enjoin the state from using the existing districts in 2016. Back in July, the plaintiffs asked the court to issue a damn ruling already. It is beyond my comprehension why this is taking so long, but here we are. Maybe this motion will finally get something to happen.

UPDATE: The Trib’s Ross Ramsey has some harsh words for the judges.

Can we PLEASE get some action on redistricting?

From the Lone Star Project:

Earlier today, plaintiffs in the pending Texas congressional and state house redistricting case filed a motion with the presiding three-judge federal panel in San Antonio requesting a conference to discuss further action on the case.  The motion was jointly filed by the Quesada plaintiffs (supported by the Lone Star Project), NAACP, League of United Latin American Citizens and others.

The motion is straight-forward; it lays out that closing arguments on the claims against the 2011 maps originally adopted by the Texas Legislature were concluded on August 26, 2014, nearly two years ago.  The last action taken by the court simply clarified that it would not take any action that might disrupt the current 2016 elections.

Ideally, a conference will be ordered to lay out the timeline for further action on the case.  The motion notes that preparations for the 2018 elections begin in the fall of 2017, implying that action on the case is needed to prevent the possibility of impacting the 2018 election calendar.

In recent weeks, federal courts and judges on three separate occasions have struck down or ordered relief of voter ID laws, confirming that they discriminate against minority citizens in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act: A federal judge in Wisconsin ordered relief for Wisconsin’s discriminatory photo ID law; the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals – widely considered the most conservative federal court in the nation – struck down the Texas voter ID law; and, [Friday], the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the North Carolina voter suppression law.

Yes, it’s been two whole years since the trial over the 2011 State House maps came to an end. The trial over the 2011 Congressional maps ended a month later. And here we are, with no further action or even an indication that further action is forthcoming, even though last May we thought there might be. This is what the plaintiffs are asking for. Surely it is not too much to ask to have this matter concluded in time for the 2018 elections, is it? Rick Hasen has more.

Can SCOTUS please intervene in the voter ID case?

The plaintiffs would like to know.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Civil rights groups challenging Texas’ voter identification law are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to block the measure from being used during the 2016 general election.

[…]

The civil rights groups filed a motion Friday with the Supreme Court asking it to vacate a Fifth Circuit ruling that has allowed the voter ID law to continue being implemented unchanged and to reinstate an injunction against the measure. The groups also asked the high court to consider giving the federal court in Corpus Christi limited jurisdiction over the case to issue a new injunction.

Requiring one of seven forms of valid ID, Texas’ voter ID law is considered one of the most stringent in the country. The Legislature passed the measure in 2011, and it has been the subject of litigation ever since.

Following the October 2014 ruling by the federal court in Corpus Christi, the Fifth Circuit allowed the law to stay in effect while the state appealed to avoid disrupting the elections that took place weeks after.

But the civil rights groups argue the Fifth Circuit’s stay has now stretched nearly 18 months and has “injured Texas voters in two more statewide election cycles in 2015 and 2016, and, unless vacated, will very likely cause further injury by allowing enforcement of an invalid state law again during the 2016 Texas general elections.”

Lawyers for the groups asked the Fifth Circuit last week to reverse its decision allowing the law to stay in effect, but the court said it would not consider that motion until it rehears the case in the last week of May.

The civil rights groups say the Fifth Circuit’s schedule is likely to prevent them from getting a ruling in time for the 2016 elections. Texas starts its election preparations in June, just days after the full appeals court will revisit the case.

See here for the background, and here for a copy of the application to vacate the Fifth Circuit ruling. Bear in mind that the federal district court judge put a stay on the law in her 2014 ruling, but on appeal the Fifth Circuit lifted the stay, with the Supreme Court concurring, on the grounds that it was too close to the election to change all the procedures that had been put in place to inform people about voter ID. Whatever you think of that ruling, there’s plenty of time to change things now, unless of course the Fifth Circuit runs out the clock, which some people think was their intent. I presume a 4-4 ruling means that the stay will not be reinstated, so the plaintiffs will need to hope for the good Anthony Kennedy to show up. We’ll see how it goes. SCOTUSBlog, The Hill, and NBC News have more.

Voter ID plaintiffs want Fith Circuit to get on with it

Some more unfinished business for the courts.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Some plaintiffs challenging Texas’ voter ID law want a federal appeals court to speed up its consideration of the case, looking to sort it out before the next wave of elections in the state.

In a court document filed Wednesday, the plaintiffs note that 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has not yet set a schedule to hear the case, casting uncertainty over how much time its outcome will give municipalities to prepare for their elections in May.

“This Court should seek to resolve this appeal as promptly as possible in order to ensure that a constitutional system of voter identification is implemented for upcoming elections,” wrote the plaintiffs, which include U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas, and the League of United Latin American Citizens.

As you may recall, federal Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos struck down Texas’ voter ID law in October, less than two weeks before early voting was to begin. The Fifth Circuit, subsequently backed by SCOTUS, stayed the ruling, which allowed voter ID to be implemented in November despite the judgment that it was unconstitutional. The justification for that was that election officials had been preparing for voter ID to be in place, and it would have been “too chaotic” to change direction at the last minute. Well, the next (non-special) election is in May, so there’s plenty of time to get this resolved before then…assuming the Fifth Circuit gets around to putting a date for the appellate hearing on the calendar. We know the Fifth Circuit has a lot on its plate right now, but that’s no reason to dawdle. Let’s get this show on the road.

Voter ID trial testimony ends

The state of Texas put on its case in the voter ID trial.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Lawyers from the Texas attorney general’s office presented witnesses Wednesday in federal court defending the state voter ID law as necessary and attempting to rebuff claims that it is discriminatory.

The state’s case in the federal trial, now in its second week, relies in part on the written testimony, read in court, of Republican state legislators. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos heard testimony from state Sens. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, and Dan Patrick, R-Houston, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, who said that the voter ID law had the support of the vast majority of people across that state.

[…]

Also Wednesday, witnesses for the state and plaintiffs’ lawyers — representing the U.S. Justice Department, as well as several civil rights groups — sparred over the voter ID law and its effects.

During one exchange, Richard Dellheim, a Justice Department lawyer, tried to discredit an expert witness for the state.

Trey Hood, a University of Georgia political science professor, was called by the state to discuss his study that showed the voter ID law in Georgia resulted in suppressed voter turnout in 2008 among people of all races and ethnicities, compared with the comparable election in 2004 before the law was enacted.

Dellheim asked Hood if the study was valid and applicable in Texas. Hood said he thought so, though he later said he couldn’t empirically prove it was.

Dellheim then pointed to other courts’ opinions about Hood’s work, and noted his studies were called “wholly unreliable,” “suspect” and substantially less credible than other studies.

Oops. There were other embarrassing revelations as well.

Emails from a Department of Public Safety official raised questions Tuesday in federal court about the sincerity of the agency’s voter qualification efforts.

“Zero’s a good number,” Tony Rodriguez, a senior DPS manager wrote in a email presented as evidence in the ongoing voter ID trial. Rodriguez was responding to a subordinate’s report that no election identification certificates had been issued the day before at a DPS location.

Election Identification Certificates, or EICs, are a form of identification provided under the contested law that requires Texans to show certain photo identification before casting a ballot. The EICs are an alternative for citizens who are unable to – or chose not to – get other forms of qualifying photo identification.

The messages were discussed the same day the State of Texas began defending its voter ID law in a trial that has garnered national attention for its potentially wide-reaching implications. The law in question, known as Senate Bill 14, was passed by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Perry in 2011.

Another email from Rodriguez refers to a citizen inquiring about getting an EIC only to change their mind and leave the DPS office as a “close call.” Earlier in that message, it reads that the agency was continuing its “clean sweep.”

“This is getting better by the day,” Rodriguez writes in another when a different report shows no EICs had been issued.

He said that was his way of expressing disappointment over the lack of certificates issued despite extensive man hours going into the program. It was sarcasm, he told a Department of Justice lawyer in court Tuesday.

She wasn’t convinced.

“‘This is getting better by the day’ is a pretty unusual way to express disappointment, yes?” DOJ attorney Anna Baldwin asked Rodriguez during his testimony.

A recent tally shows the state has issued 279 EICs despite having more than 350 locations or entities equipped to distribute the cards, according to court testimony.

That’s an attitude that comes from the top, I’d say. Not hard to understand why it might be pervasive among the folks on the ground as well. See also this Trib story about the lack of places at which to get an acceptable form of voter ID and the fuss that Democratic Senators are raising about it.

By the way, if you’re wondering why testimony from Republican legislators was read into the record from earlier depositions instead of being taken live, you’re not the only one who thought it was odd.

Before resting, the state declined to unseal testimony of other lawmakers and did not read transcripts from their depositions into the record.

Notably, the court did not hear from Speaker Joe Straus, who presided over the House when the voter ID law passed, and Rep. Patricia Harless, a Republican from Spring and author of the House version of the voter ID bill, both of whom were on the state’s list of witnesses.

Plaintiffs’ lawyer Gerry Hebert, who is representing U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, and the League of United Latin American Citizens, said he cannot remember — in his 41 years of practicing law — when a state or local government declined to call an elected official to testify in person at a trial, especially when the intent of the legislative body is at stake.

“It’s extraordinary,” he told the American-Statesman.

Herbert said he believed the absence of live testimony from lawmakers signaled that they cannot defend the law in court, Hebert said.

Attorney general spokeswoman Lauren Bean responded to the criticism by saying: “Unlike the plaintiffs, the state will try this case in the courtroom, not the media.”

I’m sure the judge will be duly impressed by the majesty of your retort, Lauren. Abbott has gone to great lengths to prevent any Republican legislator or legislative staff member from testifying. It’s more than fair to speculate as to why. I hope the judge notes this in her opinion.

As always, see the Brennan Center’s coverage – here are their writeups for Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning, and Wednesday afternoon. The state has rested its case as of Thursday, and closing arguments will be held on September 22.

One more interesting bit from Zachary Roth at MSNBC:

Defending the ID measure, lawyers for Texas sought to cast doubt on the credibility of some expert witnesses, but offered little that undermined the broad thrust of the challengers’ case. They said at the close of proceedings Monday that they planned to offer just two witnesses, with their presentation lasting only around a day and half.

The law’s opponents suggested privately that Texas’s laissez-faire approach shows the weakness of its defense. But the state may be relying on a basic reality: Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, the burden of proof is on the challengers to show that the ID law will stop Texas’s racial minorities from voting.

Texas’s voter ID law, passed in 2011, was struck down the following year by a federal court, which ruled that it violated Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). Under Section 5, Texas and other covered areas had to show that their election laws didn’t disproportionately affect racial minorities before they could go into effect. In 2013, the Supreme Court neutered Section 5 in Shelby County v. Holder, and hours later, Texas announced that its ID law was back in force.

It’s now being challenged under Section 2 of the VRA, which was unaffected by Shelby. But under Section 2, the onus is on the law’s challengers to show not just that it hits minorities hardest, but that it does so because of a history of racial discrimination. That’s a relatively high bar to meet—though it’s one that voting rights advocates have met lately, at least for now, in the Wisconsin and Ohio cases.

U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos, an Obama appointee, did little to tip her hand. But lawyers for the plaintiffs said they took her obvious engagement and interest—she took frequent notes, and several times interjected to ask witnesses to clarify points—as a promising sign.

[…]

The challengers also continued to attack the main rationale Texas has offered for the ID law: that it’s needed to stop fraud. Lorraine Minnite, a political scientist at Rutgers University who has conducted perhaps the closest analysis of voter fraud claims, testified that voter impersonation fraud—the only kind of fraud that the ID might stop—is vanishingly rare.

Minnite said there have been just four such cases in Texas since 2000—and it’s not clear that any of them would have been prevented by the ID law.

At times, lawyers for Texas seemed disorganized or disengaged. Reed Clay sought to use a U.S. Congressional report to discredit Project Vote, a voter registration group with whom Minnite has been associated in the past, but was unable to find the relevant portion, and gave up.

Later, John B. Scott seemed to think better of a line of questioning about an expert witness’s past clients, and abruptly abandoned it, triggering laughter in the courtroom—and even a faint smile from Judge Gonzales Ramos.

The defense in the redistricting trial has been similar, in that the state hasn’t bothered to do much. This is what happens when the burden of proof is not on you. PDiddie and Texas Leftist have more.

Davis beats Abbott in court again

That’s probably the simplest way to understand this story.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Sen. Wendy Davis

A San Antonio federal court has ordered Texas to pay more than $260,000 in attorney fees to the legal team that helped state Sen. Wendy Davis beat back Republican attempts to carve up her district in 2011.

The ruling earlier this week amounts to another court victory for Davis, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for governor, in her years-long redistricting fight with state Republicans and Attorney General Greg Abbott, the presumptive GOP gubernatorial nominee.

Aside from Davis’ lawyers, the League of United Latin American Citizens, which also sued Texas over its 2011 state senate maps, was awarded a total of $93,000 by the court.

The state plans to appeal the ruling.

A Davis campaign spokeswoman said it is no surprise the court ruled to award legal fees to attorneys representing the Fort Worth senator since she previously was declared a prevailing party in the case.

“Greg Abbott should accept the facts and stop wasting taxpayer dollars,” spokeswoman Rebecca Acuna said.

[…]

Led by Abbott, the state told a federal three-judge panel in San Antonio over the summer it was backing off the senate maps drawn in 2011 in favor of a new set. That was cemented when the Legislature in June approved maps keeping Davis’ district intact, and in court in September when the judges declared Davis a “prevailing” party and instructed her lawyers to file for reimbursement.

The amount Davis was awarded was a lot less than what her team originally asked for, and a bit more than half of their revised figure. You’d think that might make this sum a reasonable one for Abbott to accept and move on, except that doing so is also an acceptance of the fact that she won in court. His argument is basically that the revised Senate map to which everyone agreed was a strategic retreat and that the original map was never judged on the merits, so Davis “never received a judgment on the merits of any of their claims”. The San Antonio court rejected that argument:

It is undisputed that Plaintiffs obtained significant, affirmative interim relief. This relief was judicially sanctioned, materially changed the legal relationship between the parties, and gave Plaintiffs all the relief they sought with regard to the 2012 elections. In addition, that relief was not and cannot now be reversed, dissolved, or otherwise undone.

Not surprisingly, Abbott has already announced his appeal, which will be heard by that bastion of fairness and impartiality, the Fifth Circuit. Abbott just won’t admit that he lost.

That wasn’t the only loss Abbott suffered in court this week.

The three-judge panel in the Texas redistricting case entered an order Wednesday denying a request by the State of Texas to modify the procedures the court would use to decide legislative privilege issues.

The order said the motion was being denied as premature since:

The legislative privilege is a personal one and may be waived or asserted by each individual legislator … [and] [a]ccordingly, neither the Governor, not the Secretary of State or the State of Texas has standing to assert the legislative privilege on behalf of any legislator or staff member that may be deposed.

However, the order went on to say that it was “nevertheless appropriate to provide the parties with some guidance as to how to proceed with future depositions” and set out several ground rules for the parties:

In sum, counsel for the State of Texas may not invoke the legislative privilege; each legislator, legislative aide, or staff person must assert or waive the privilege individually. Any person asserting the privilege must, however, provide enough facts so that a court, if necessary, can determine whether the information sought falls within the scope of the privilege. To the extent that any individual asserting the privilege has had communications or correspondence with any outside party or entity, such communication or correspondence waives the privilege as to the content of those communications.

See here and here for the background. The basic idea is that Abbott wants to shield Republican legislators and staffers from being asked questions about their intentions and thought processes and what have you during the redistricting trial. It was ruled for the first trial that there wasn’t a blanket invocation of privilege for legislative witnesses, but it could be invoked if needed. Abbott argued that circumstances in the retrial were different, and the court disagreed. The Express News wondered why Abbott was pursuing this argument.

There exists an immunity for state legislators from liability and from testifying. This is present in federal common law. On this much, the parties in the state’s ongoing redistricting litigation appear to agree.

The question is, how broad is the immunity?

In arguing for the federal court in San Antonio to modify its previous order on this issue, the Texas attorney general’s office would have us believe that the law makes this immunity broad beyond reason.

Essentially, it would have Texans believe that public servants need not make public what went into the creation of public policy — even in a court case.

In that previous court order on immunity, legislators could be deposed and could invoke legislative immunity but have to answer the questions anyway — with the depositions then placed under seal for court review.

Now, since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling returned challenges to the state’s redistricting maps to the lower court here, Texas argues that matters have changed and the order should be modified.

It asks that legislators who hadn’t previously waived privilege and new legislative witnesses be able to keep their mouths shut.

The court’s first order was bending over backward. What the state attorney general is now seeking is for the court to go into contortions to shield legislators from revealing what they know.

[…]

In the last go-around, it turns out that no legislator claimed privilege. If any lawmaker had, the public would have had a right to ask why.

So, in this latest round, what is it that the attorney general’s office doesn’t want us to know about how and why legislators crafted these maps?

Could it be that the maps were created and approved with full knowledge of whom these maps would keep in power and at which groups’ expense?

Embarrassing stuff said and written during the process, pointing to purposeful discrimination? So, quit doing that. Problem solved.

Given the state’s history on voter discrimination, the reluctance to be this forthcoming merely points to insidious maneuvering. The court — and the public — have a right to know.

Seems pretty reasonable to me. And if stuff that embarrasses the legislators, the Republican Party, or Greg Abbott happens to come out of the trial, that’s just too bad. As the E-N says, they shouldn’t have done those embarrassing things in the first place.

Redistricting plaintiffs go for Section 3

It’s a brand new world out there.

Minority-rights groups are charting “new territory” in the fight against Texas’ redistricting plan, using a provision of the Voting Rights Act that cites discriminatory intent as part of an effort to maintain federal oversight of the state’s congressional maps.

The NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens filed a motion here Tuesday, asking that Texas again be placed under federal requirements for changes made to voting maps, per Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act.

State authorities labeled the move a “desperate effort” following recent Supreme Court decisions that strike down regulatory provisions of the 1965 act.

Luis Vera, a LULAC lawyer in San Antonio, said that because Section 3 was untouched by the court, it allows any state to be subject to federal preclearance if discriminatory intent or a demonstrated effort to disenfranchise is found in new voting laws or maps.

Last August, a D.C. court panel found Texas intentionally discriminated against minorities when it adopted new redistricting maps.

The ruling rejected the state’s claim that the changes did not require Justice Department preclearance approval.

The D.C. court ruling was vacated last month, following the Supreme Court’s decision.

Vera said that while the Supreme Court ruling was a huge blow, consideration of Section 3 by the court would give hope of a remedy to groups.

“We are still in the game,” he said.

Vera conceded that the claim of discrimination must now be proved by the groups filing the motion, whereas the state previously had to prove it did not discriminate when it changed laws or maps.

“In the past, the burden was on the state. Now, the burden is on us,” Vera said. “The good thing for us is that the D.C. court already found discriminatory intent.”

As noted, there are already Section 3 claims before the San Antonio court. The burden may be higher for the plaintiffs now, but Lord knows there’s no shortage of evidence – correct me if I’m wrong here, but I believe the state of Texas has never successfully defended any of its decennial redistricting efforts. There’s definitely reason for hope here, and that’s before we get into the Section 2 claims that are also being pressed.

Needless to say, Texas Redistricting has been all over this:

San Antonio court starts process for deciding if Texas should preclear maps under section 3 of Voting Rights Act, from July 1.

Section 3 and the 2013 Texas maps: How this might work, also from July 1.

Bail-in claim for Texas under section 3 also filed in D.C. court, from July 3. Note that the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus and Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force are not part of the new motion before the DC court, though they could join later if they want to, or they could file their own separate motions.

Q&A on the new section 3 claim about Texas redistricting, also from July 3. The answer to pretty much every question you might ask right now is “it’s unclear at this time” because this is all entirely new legal territory.

Press round up: Maneuvering on Texas redistricting & voter ID, from July 8. Be sure also to read this Election Law Blog post about how Section 3 could be an “easy, but powerful” way to amend the Voting Rights Act.

On Friday, a whole bunch more complaints were filed with the San Antonio court, regarding the maps that were passed in the special session, and including Section 3 claims. The state has till the 19th to respond. We’ll see how it goes from here.

Veasey v Garcia, Round Two?

Looks like we’ll have at least one high profile Democratic primary next year.

Domingo Garcia

Domingo Garcia

Domingo Garcia’s pursuit of the national presidency of the League of United Latin American Citizens has just as much to do with politics as activism.

The former state representative is considering whether to seek a rematch against Rep. Marc Veasey in the 33rd Congressional District, the seat created last year that stretches across Dallas and Fort Worth.

The presidency of the nation’s oldest Hispanic civil rights group would give him a bigger platform. In theory, he would get the group to focus on North Texas voter registration and turnout efforts, which would ultimately help him if he decided to re-enter the political arena.

Marc Veasey

Marc Veasey

Meanwhile, Veasey has already begun his re-election campaign, including a recent mega-fundraiser in Dallas. He’s made a strategic effort to appeal to Hispanic voters and make inroads into Dallas County.

Veasey won the Democratic runoff by 1,100 votes in July and the seat overall in November. But the campaign never really stopped. While it’s still a question whether Garcia will opt for another campaign, the actions of both men suggest a second round is likely.

“Last year was just a warm-up,” said former LULAC president Hector Flores, a Garcia supporter. “I believe Domingo will run again.”

[…]

Garcia and others are registering voters on both sides of the county line, hoping to add enough to the total to overcome Veasey’s advantage.

With the support of Sal Espino and others, Garcia is finding open ears with Tarrant County Hispanics that didn’t know him last year.

“My goal is to register 20,000 new voters,” Garcia said. So far, he added, 4,000 have signed up.

Garcia’s campaign for the LULAC presidency has been contentious. He’s running against incumbent Margaret Moran of San Antonio. The election is scheduled for June at a Las Vegas gathering.

But LULAC officials say Garcia isn’t eligible to run. They sued to keep the Democrat off the ballot. Last week, Garcia countersued.

Veasey has stepped up his outreach to Hispanic voters and residents in Dallas County. He’s opened an office in Dallas, as well as Fort Worth.

And Veasey has tried to become a player in Congress on immigration. He invited a so-called Dreamer, a young immigrant brought to the country illegally by her parents, as his guest to the president’s State of the Union address.

Later, he hosted an immigration roundtable discussion on the issue in Dallas with Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill. And he participated in an immigration reform rally in Washington and met with Proyecto Immigrante, a North Texas group.

His local staff has been a fixture at various Hispanic events, some where there were fewer than a dozen people.

“I’m meeting people in Oak Cliff and new people in areas I’ve never represented in Fort Worth, Irving and Grand Prairie,” Veasey said.

It may be awhile before anyone can take a breather in this district. On the plus side, if that incentivizes voter registration, it’s all good. You can listen to the interviews I did for the 2012 primary with Veasey and Garcia. Really, the right answer here is for there to be two new minority opportunity districts – as Rep. Yvonne Davis has demonstrated, one can certainly draw such a map – but that ain’t happening without a court order. Assuming it doesn’t, all things considered I’d prefer to see Veasey hold the seat – he has a higher ceiling than Garcia, and Veasey has done all the things I’ve wanted him to do. But as Veasey himself says in the story, no one is entitled to a seat. I’m sure he’ll keep working hard for it, and that’s just fine by me.

LULAC files suit against Tax Assessor over voter registrations

Texas Redistricting has the press release.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Today, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and a number of Houston residentsfiled suit against Harris County in Federal District Court for the Southern District of Texas maintaining that Harris County officials wrongly rejected voter applications through discriminatory practices against Latino and African American applicants. Representing LULAC and the residents who filed suit are attorneys from the Campaign Legal Center, Project Vote, and Chad Dunn of Brazil & Dunn.

Among other things, LULAC filed the suit in an attempt to stop the discriminatory purging of registered Latino and Black voters in Harris County. In the petition, LULAC asserts the following claims:

  • The changes in voting procedures by Harris County have not been pre-cleared by the United States Department of Justice or by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. These actions are “standards, practices and procedures” subject to the preclearance requirements of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1973c.
  • Harris County has disproportionate higher percentage rates of rejected voter registration applications from minority citizens than from Anglo citizens resulting in discrimination against African-Americans and Latino citizens which is in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1973.
  • Harris County’s voter purge program was based on faulty death matches and is in violation of Section 8(b)(1) of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (“NVRA”), 42 U.S.C. § 1973gg-6(b)(I), which provides that any state or local program or activity designed to ensure the maintenance of accurate and current voter registration rolls “shall be uniform, nondiscriminatory, and in compliance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”
  • Harris County acted with racially discriminatory intent in denying the right to vote of African-American persons in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
  • Harris County deprived a fundamental right to vote protected under the United States Constitution and the First Amendment.

“Harris County has used discriminatory practices in purging otherwise qualified voters and citing minor technicalities for rejecting their registration applications,” said LULAC National President Margaret Moran. “We filed the suit in order to stop these discriminatory practices. Our singular goal is to make sure that all qualified individuals have the opportunity to exercise their Constitutional protected right to vote in this year’s election.”

“Harris County has a lengthy and sad history of voter discrimination and regrettably the only way to bring it into compliance with the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution has been through court orders,” said J. Gerald Hebert, Campaign Legal Center Executive Director. “We hope this complaint will once again serve to bring the county into compliance with federal law and safeguard the rights of Latino and African American citizens.”

“Once again, Harris County zealously seeks to exclude people of color from the electoral process, thumbing its nose at federal statutes, the U.S. Constitution and the quintessentially American belief in one person one vote,” said Catherine M. Flanagan, Director of Election Administration for Project Vote.

The lawsuit is here, and a press release from Don Sumners is here. As you might imagine, he’s not terribly impressed. His main argument in his reply is that LULAC’s suit is mostly a rehash of the 2008 TDP lawsuit that led to a settlement in which the Tax Assessor’s office agreed that they would not automatically reject a voter application where the residence address given was determined to be a commercial address. LULAC claims they are not honoring that agreement, Sumners denies their claim. I have no reason to trust Sumners, so we’ll see what a judge has to say. The Chron story is here, and Stace has more.

No changes to interim maps

I noted this Friday afternoon, but in case you missed it the San Antonio court has ruled that the interim maps will be used as is for the November election.

Texas will use its current district maps for the upcoming November election, a panel of federal judges ruled Friday afternoon, ending the possibility of another round of redistricting-induced electoral chaos.

From the bench, federal Judge Orlando Garcia announced the next round of filings in the ongoing congressional map challenges would be due before Dec. 1, delaying further action until after the general election.

“We’re really relieved that we can continue with the Nov. 6 election and keep it on track,” Bexar Elections Administrator Jacquelyn Callanen said, adding that she stopped proofing ballots to attend the hearing.

I can’t criticize this decision. The time frame to make any changes, even minor ones, would have been extremely short, and it would have been possible to only address some of the issues noted by the DC court, so at least some discriminatory effects would have remained even in a new interim map. Most of the intervenors preferred to wait till after the election as well.

Although all of the plaintiff groups were united in the view that there were additional deficiencies in the interim maps that needed to be corrected in light of the D.C. panel’s preclearance ruling on Tuesday, only LULAC was left insisting that the defects needed to be addressed before an election.

Nina Perales, counsel for the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, told the panel that she would prefer to see the issues addressed in a more deliberative way – adding that election results from November 2012 could help inform that process. Perales also told the court that she just simply didn’t see that there was enough time to accomplish all that would need to happen logistically in order to adjust the maps in time for a November election – especially with ballot printing and other hard deadlines fast approaching.

Perales also expressed concerns that the prospect of ‘jungle primaries’ in November 2012 (in which candidates of all parties run together on a single slate with the top two finishers moving on to a runoff) would lead to voter confusion and depressed turnout.

Again, I think this was the correct call given the situation. But let’s be clear that the reason we’re in this situation, where the San Antonio judges were forced to choose between allowing discrimination to continue or throwing many of the general election contests into chaos, as LULAC attorney Luis Vera characterized it, is because the Supreme Court ordered the San Antonio court to throw out the original interim maps they drew. Those original maps were based on the last provably legal maps for Congress, the State Senate, and the Lege, namely the 2001 and 2003 redistricting maps. The Supreme Court ruled that the judges needed to use the legislatively drawn maps as a starting point. While I believe that’s a defensible position, here we see its fatal flaw: It allows for the possibility of uncorrectable discrimination in an election. You can blame the DC court for taking as long as they did if you want, but the root cause was the Supreme Court decision that took perfectly reasonable and logical maps that still would have given the GOP large majorities in each chamber and threw them out. Everything flowed from there. And whatever happens to correct these injustices for 2014, nothing will undo the electoral results from this year that are achieved with these illegal maps.

Challenging the interim maps

One of the questions that came out of Tuesday’s redistricting preclearance ruling was whether or not it would affect the interim maps for this year. Some of the intervenors have asked the San Antonio judges about that.

Several key minority and Democratic groups took a first step Wednesday toward challenging Texas’ interim redistricting maps, put in place for the 2012 election, by filing a request for a preliminary hearing in federal court.

The motion came a day after a federal judge panel in Washington, D.C., struck down redistricting maps passed by the Texas Legislature, citing evidence that the maps were crafted with a discriminatory intent and would illegally reduce the ability of minority communities to select their representation.

While those maps never took effect, the interim maps that were drawn by a panel of three federal judges in San Antonio for the 2012 election had to be based on the Legislature’s now-rejected maps.

“Over 90 percent of the map is the legislative map, that has been found to be illegal,” said Luis Vera, an attorney with the League of United Latin American Citizens. “You can’t have an election with an illegal map.”

He added: “That’s our objective — to get lines drawn that are legal, that are constitutional and that comply with the D.C. order.”

The filing asks the panel of three federal judges that drew the interim maps to convene for a status conference at the earliest practicable date.

The three-judge panel in San Antonio has set a status conference for this afternoon, but it doesn’t sound like they’re inclined to take action. I suppose it’s theoretically possible to do something for a couple of the districts, and Lord knows it’s galling to have to hold even one election under a map that was based on that illegal, discriminatory mess that the Lege produced, but it sure seems like a high hurdle to overcome. We’ll what the judges say, but I’m not expecting anything.

UPDATE: According to the Chron, the judges have ruled that the interim maps will remain in place for November.

More on Latinos and marriage equality

From the inbox:

Twenty-one of the nation’s leading Hispanic organizations announced today their endorsement of a first-of-its kind, comprehensive public-education campaign called Familia es Familia aimed at strengthening Latino voices to build support within the Latino community for acceptance of LGBT family members.

Public opinion polls show that Latinos really do lead the way when it comes to attitudes toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people. Several recent studies by the Pew Hispanic Center, Bendixen & Amandi International, 2012 Opportunity Agenda and SSRS found strong support among Hispanics for a number of LGBT issues.

Familia es Familia will be a bilingual campaign providing resources and information that are culturally appropriate to empower voices within and from Latino families and communities. In addition, the campaign will provide training, technical assistance, and support to the 21 Hispanic organizations and will spearhead a national effort to educate the public through a range of viral components including: an interactive bilingual website rich with videos, resources, and publications; social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube; promoting stories and voices in the media; and an organizing campaign to engage the community through their mobile devices.

“The polling shows that many in the Latino community already understand that there is one struggle for equality, a struggle that benefits from appreciating common mission. Familia es Familia is a campaign that will help to deepen the understanding that a discriminatory deprivation of rights on any basis is a cause of concern for all. Together, we can overcome all of the irrational biases that adversely affect any member
of the Latino community,” said Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel, MALDEF.

“NCLR is deeply committed to the civil rights of all Americans, including our friends and family in the LGBT community. We are very proud that this ground-breaking public education campaign, ‘Familia es Familia’, is being launched at our Annual Conference this year in Las Vegas,” said Janet Murguia, President and CEO, NCLR.

Brent Wilkes, Executive Director of LULAC, the nation’s oldest Latino civil rights organization said, “Since its inception, LULAC has fought for the equality of minorities. All individuals regardless of their race, ethnicity, country of origin or sexual orientation, deserve equal rights.”

“A growing majority of Latinos in this country know that every gay or lesbian person is part of someone’s family – a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a loved one – and the more conversations we have, family member to family member, the more support for the freedom to marry grows,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and President of Freedom to Marry, the campaign to win marriage nationwide. “Latino gay couples seek the freedom to marry to affirm and strengthen their love, their commitment, and their ability to take care of each other and their families; government should not be putting barriers in their way. Freedom to Marry is proud to be supporting the Familia es Familia campaign to lift up Hispanic voices and stories as together we make the case for ending the exclusion from marriage.”

Freedom to Marry provided the seed funding and serves as fiscal sponsor for Familia es Familia. The Gill Foundation has also committed to providing additional resources.

“Given the breadth and depth of this first-of-its-kind campaign, this effort is so vital for our community, and we hope that it will help to change the dialogue and hearts and minds about our Latino LGBT family and community Members,” said Ingrid Duran, Laura Esquivel and Catherine Pino, the D&P Creative Strategies team, the lead firm working with Freedom to Marry to create and manage the campaign.

For more information, please visit www.familiaesfamilia.org.

See here for more. A list of sponsoring organizations for this is beneath the fold. One thing I want to add to this is that there’s no question this is a direct result of President Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality from several weeks ago. Over the past year or so I’ve read numerous national writers, Ezra Klein chief among them, write about how generally speaking presidents can’t move public opinion by making a speech on something. There’s a lot of polling data to back that up, and I know Klein has harped on this subject as a pushback against the media’s fetishization of presidential powers of persuasion. Clearly, though, this is an exception. It’s not that the organizations that have been following the President’s lead had previously opposed marriage equality, it’s that they’ve taken the opportunity to raise the priority on the issue, and to present a united front that stands as a strong signal to people who are otherwise in tune with them but who needed a bit of a push on this. It’s really been remarkable to watch, and has been a shining beacon of hope in some otherwise dark times. We could use a lot more like this.

(more…)

Latinos and marriage equality

You’ve probably seen some coverage by now of how African American views of marriage equality have shifted in its favor in the wake of President Obama’s announcement that he now supports it. But what about Latinos and their views?

On the right side of history

The recent news coverage and analysis of this issue has focused almost exclusively on comparing the marriage views of African Americans with whites, with an occasional nod to a broader group of “people of color.” This analysis inadvertently masks the views of Latinos, the nation’s largest and fastest-growing minority group. In fact, among the media’s coverage of new polls conducted and released following President Obama’s support of marriage equality, very few (if any) broke out the results based on Latino or Hispanic ethnicity.

Despite the absence of media coverage on Latinos and marriage equality, numerous surveys tell us that Latinos are by and large supportive of laws that extend the rights and responsibilities of marriage to same-sex couples. A 2011 survey of Latinos found that even then 54 percent supported full marriage equality, compared to about 53 percent of the general public at the time. This same survey found that Latinos who identify as Catholic support marriage equality at a slightly higher rate of 57 percent. Like the rest of the U.S. population, support for marriage equality was higher among Hispanic women than Hispanic men, and was lower for those Latinos who identified as members of the Republican Party.

Further, a 2010 survey by the Associated Press and Univision found stark generational divides among Latinos, just as in the general population. Specifically, younger-generation Latinos voice much higher support for marriage equality than older Latinos do.

But overall Latino support for equality extends far beyond marriage. One case in point: Latinos are very supportive of laws that protect against other forms of antigay* discrimination (note that these surveys didn’t ask questions specific to transgender rights). The aforementioned 2011 survey found that:

  • Eighty-six percent of Latinos support workplace discrimination laws that protect gay people
  • Eighty-six percent support housing discrimination laws that protect gay people
  • Eighty-three percent support hate crimes laws that protect gay people
  • Eighty-three percent support equal health care and pension benefits for same-sex couples
  • Seventy-eight percent support open military service

Further, the survey found that 67 percent of Latinos believe that gay people face either some or a lot of discrimination in the United States. At the same time, 65 percent of Latinos said that Hispanics themselves face similar rates of discrimination; 55 percent said the same for African Americans; and 47 percent for women. Also, 65 percent of Latinos said that gay people face some or a lot of discrimination from the Hispanic population itself—52 percent said that African Americans face similar levels of discrimination from the Latino population, and 48 percent said women did as well.

In addition to obscuring Latino support for marriage equality, the recent media focus on African Americans and marriage equality also ignores the fact that African Americans believe gay people face high rates of discrimination overall in America. In fact, African Americans largely understand that gay Americans face pervasive discrimination and are strongly supportive of laws and policies to end that discrimination—and they were supportive even when their opposition to marriage equality was significantly high.

A 2009 report and related polling from the Arcus Foundation, for example, found that 67 percent of African Americans opposed marriage equality at that time. But the same survey and polls found that 76 percent of African Americans thought that gay people overall face either a lot or some discrimination in America. Further:

  • Eighty-five percent of African Americans polled said that hate crimes are a problem for gay people
  • Eighty-three percent said school bullying is a problem for gay youth
  • Seventy-four percent said access to health care and pension benefits is a problem for same-sex couples
  • Seventy-four percent said job discrimination is a problem for gay employees and job seekers
  • Sixty-nine percent said housing discrimination is a problem for the gay population

If that’s not enough for you, the National Council of La Raza has endorsed marriage equality as well.

Eric Rodriguez, vice president of public policy for the National Council of La Raza, confirmed to the Blade that the vote took place on June 9 during a previously scheduled board meeting. NCLR did not provide a copy of the resolution, but Rodriguez stressed that there was little opposition to it.

“There was discussion for that period of time, but everyone really strongly that supporting what we had already put out there in terms of our statement was the right thing to do,” he said.

Former NCLR Board Chair Danny Ortega, a Phoenix lawyer whose term ended after the vote, provided broad details of the conversations that he said took place among the 25 board members before the vote.

“We had a discussion about this and clearly some people had more questions than others, but at the end of the discussion it was unanimous,” he said.

The resolution passed less than a month after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Persons’ Board of Directors endorsed marriage rights for same-sex couples.

[…]

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund President Thomas A. Saenz has backed same-sex marriage. His organization has not only represented people with HIV in discrimination cases, but filed amicus briefs in support of lawsuits that challenge California’s Proposition 8 and other states’ prohibitions on nuptials for gays and lesbians.

The Texas chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens earlier this month also passed a same-sex marriage resolution during their annual convention. LULAC National President Margaret Moran joined Murguía, Saenz and other civil rights leaders who applauded Obama’s public support of nuptials for gays and lesbians.

Remember when marriage equality was going to be the wedge that fractured the Democratic coalition? So much for that. Sure, there is at least one prominent African American who has been unhappy with the President’s announcement, but I rather doubt that the bottom feeders at NOM will be adopting him as a spokesperson. American Progress link via NewsTaco, Blade link via Runnin’ Scared. Freedom to Marry has more.

Single member Council district dispute in Boerne

It's pronounced "Bernie"

I’ve noted several stories about single member Council districts in various Texas cities over the years. They often involve litigation, so these battles can have implications beyond the borders of the locality in question, but I just find the questions about why a given city should or should not change from an at large system to a district system to be fascinating. Anyway, for all those reasons when I came across this story about such a court fight going on in Boerne, which if you’re not familiar with it is a town of just over 10,000 people about 40 miles northwest of San Antonio, I had to click on it. In doing so, I found that it involved a couple of familiar names.

Although a recent court mandate has undone Boerne’s shift in 2010 to electing city council members by districts, city officials are resisting a return to cumulative voting — with the candidate filing period for the May election just weeks away.

“We’re pushing for single-member districts,” City Attorney Kirsten Cohoon said Wednesday after a hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Orlando Garcia in San Antonio.

Boerne resident Mike Morton, who filed the suit over the change, argues that any deviation from the at-large election system mandated by the city charter must be approved by voters.

The City Council voted in late 2009 to enact voting from five districts by modifying a lawsuit settlement it struck in 1996 with the League of United Latin American Citizens.

LULAC had sued the city, claiming the at-large voting system disadvantaged minority voters.

The original lawsuit settlement in 1997 called for adoption of cumulative voting, which allows residents to cast as many votes as there are seats to be filled.

[…]

Garcia asked whether a charter amendment to enact single-member district voting could be put on the May ballot in Boerne.

Although Morton said he would drop his suit if such a vote occurred, LULAC attorney Jose Garza indicated his clients would sue if voters defeated such a measure and cumulative voting continued in use.

Yes, that’s Judge Orlando Garcia of the three-judge panel that drew the now-disallowed maps for Congress, State Senate, and State House, and Jose Garza, who just argued the plaintiffs’ case before the Supreme Court. I daresay it’s been a busy few months for both of these gentlemen. Boerne is the first city I’ve heard of to use cumulative voting. I’m wondering how you might run a campaign differently under those conditions. Anyway, the reason for the agreed change that’s now being litigated is that in the 14 years they had cumulative voting, only one Latino candidate was ever elected to anything. For what it’s worth, according to the Wikipedia entry, persons of Hispanic or Latino origin of any race were 19.44% of the population. You can see the proposed single member district map here – it’s one of the least gerrymandered maps you’ll ever see. Whether it would further LULAC’s goals or not I couldn’t say, but as I generally favor single member districts I’m rooting for them.

DC court denies summary judgment on preclearance

It’s official, the maps the Lege drew for itself and for Congress will not be used in the 2012 election.

A Washington-based federal court on Tuesday rejected Texas’ request to approve new political districts without a trial.

In a brief ruling, the court agreed with the U.S. Department of Justice that the GOP-led Legislature used an improper standard for determining whether the new districts discriminate against minorities. The order clears the way for a trial.

[…]

The ruling means temporary maps, being crafted by a San Antonio court, will likely be implemented in the interim to allow election workers and candidates to make necessary arrangements for next year’s primary elections.

You can see the short and sweet order here. As noted by Texas Redistricting, the court ruled as follows:

Having carefully considered the entire record and the parties’ arguments, the Court finds and concludes that the State of Texas used an improper standard or methodology to determine which districts afford minority voters the ability to elect their preferred candidates of choice and that there are material issues of fact in dispute that prevent this Court from entering declaratory judgment that the three redistricting plans meet the requirements of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Remember, the state sued in the DC court because they’d get a better deal than the Justice Department. They also thought, or at least they believed AG Greg Abbott when he claimed they’d get a quicker resolution than the traditional route. Oops.

The order applies to the Congressional, State Senate, and State House maps that were drawn by the Lege. The SBOE map did receive preclearance and is good to go. Expect to see an awful lot of campaign activity in the coming weeks, once people realize where they are and what the new districts really will look like. Among other things, the Senate map may well look a lot brighter for Sen. Wendy Davis, but it wouldn’t stop there. If you look at the population analysis, the Davis/LULAC map creates 13 Democratic Senate districts – the 12 existing ones plus a new one in Dallas County (SD09) that it achieves by pairing John Carona and Florence Shapiro, the latter of whom is retiring anyway. To say the least, if the San Antonio court adopts that plan, it’s quite a game changer. Postcards, PoliTex, the Trib, BOR, and Texas Redistricting have more.

The interim plans

Monday was the deadline for parties in the redistricting lawsuit being heard in San Antonio to file interim plans for the court to consider in the event preclearance is not granted in time for candidate filing. Texas Redistricting summarizes the various plans that were presented to the court:

The Plaintiffs’ Interim Plans

All of the plaintiffs’ plans have substantial similarities, though they differ in the details.

All would add a new Hispanic opportunity district in North Texas, and all, in some way, would restore Lloyd Doggett’s congressional seat (CD-25)- most by creating a ‘tri-ethnic’ coalition seat strongly anchored, if not wholly contained, in Travis County. All also would make adjustments to CD-23- currently represented by freshman Republican, Quico Canseco- to improve the district’s ability the elect the “Hispanic candidate of choice.”

However, there also are divergences.

Proposals submitted separately by MALC and State Senator Wendy Davis and State Representative Marc Veasey would create an additional African-American opportunity district in the DFW Metroplex (CD-35 in both Plan C211 and Plans C202 and C204).

By contrast, the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force and Travis County plaintiffs would forgo that seat and, instead, create a new Hispanic opportunity seat in Harris County (CD-36 in the Task Force’s Plan C213 and CD-36 in the Travis County plaintiffs’ Plan C166).

[…]

The State of Texas’ position

In its papers, the State of Texas, not surprisingly, takes the position that the panel should simply adopt the legislatively passed maps as the interim maps, arguing that the “intent of the State of Texas … is due great deference when the judiciary intercedes in the province of the legislative branch.”

[…]

Congressman Canseco

Freshman Republican Congressman Quico Canseco (CD-23) also has submitted two interim congressional map proposals (Plan C209 and Plan C212).

During trial on the claims before the San Antonio court, the court expressed a number of concerns about changes to CD-23 under the state’s map.

In response to concerns raised by the court at trial, both these maps would create a new Hispanic opportunity district in North Texas that is substantially identical to the district included in Congressman Lamar Smith’s proposal to the Texas Legislature in April 2011.

You can see links to all of the briefs that were filed at that post, and you can see the all of plan numbers here. All proposed interim maps can be found at http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us. To view a map, click on ‘select plans’ and then ‘base plan.’ The congressional and state house plans are filed under Exhibits in Perez v. Perry, and state senate plans can be found under Exhibits in Davis v. Perry. You can zoom in on these maps to see street-level detail, which I needed to do during the legislative process to see which district my house was being moved to. The parties have until Monday the 24th to respond to any plan they object to – one presumes the plaintiffs have already made their feelings clear about the legislative maps, but I imagine they might reiterate those feelings, just in case – and on Wednesday, November 2 there will be a hearing at which the plans get formally presented. This Statesman story and Randy Bear have more, and an explanation of State Sen. Wendy Davis’ proposed Senate map is here.

Williams in, Lucio out for Congress

Now that the Lege has finished its job with Congressional redistricting, expect to hear a lot more stories about the hopefuls and the not-hopefuls and their plans. For instance, Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams.

With the race for Senate getting crowded, Republican Michael Williams figured the new North Texas congressional seat might just be the ticket to Washington. The former Railroad Commissioner has changed his campaign web site and refiled his papers with the Federal Election Commission as a candidate for Congressional District 33. The district is one of four new seats that Texas gets as a result of population growth. The Legislature passed the new congressional map last week and sent to the governor. The map likely faces legal challenges and has to win federal preclearance under the Voting Rights Act. But Williams’ campaign consultant Corbin Casteel says the new Arlington-based Republican district is a perfect fit for Williams.

“Michael knows if he gets to Washington as a senator or a congressman, it doesn’t matter which, he’s going to be a conservative leader,” Casteel said. “This is a much more direct path. The Senate race is crowded. It’s not going to be clear for several months who’s going to break out of that, so he said this congressional seat is in my home town, it makes plenty of sense.”

Williams first talked about this a couple of weeks ago, not long after the first map came out. Despite his lackluster Senate campaign, you’d have to make him a frontrunner for this seat, assuming it survives a Justice Department review.

Meanwhile, a more surprising announcement is that State Sen. Eddie Lucio will not run for Congress in CD34.

State Sen. Eddie Lucio says he will not run for Congress, even though a new heavily Democratic open district has been created that is anchored in Brownsville.

[…]

Lucio first talked publicly about running for Congress in an exclusive interview with the Guardian at a legislative event at Texas State Technical College in Harlingen in September 2009. The 2010 Census was just around the corner and Lucio felt sure that the huge population growth in the Rio Grande Valley over the last decade would result in a new congressional seat being awarded to South Texas.

Here are his comments to the Guardian in September 2009:

“We deserve to have at least three congressional districts anchored in the Valley and going north. I will work to that affect next session and I will seriously look at running for one of those seats.

“If I lose another 15 pounds and continue to have the energy I have today I would very seriously like to cap my political career… not so much my political career but I would love to address and tackle the issues that are important to us internationally, immigration, health care, water, the environment.

“I think there are a lot of wonderful things we could do at the federal level that would benefit the Valley and South Texas.”

This is surprising because the conventional wisdom was that Lucio, who is on the Senate Redistricting Committee that produced the initial map, was said to have drawn CD34 for himself. There were rumors that he’d vote for the final map, though that turned out to be untrue. He made his announcement on Twitter last Friday; his full statement about why he chose not to run is here.

Cameron County District Attorney Armando Villalobos has expressed an interest in running in District 34. However, as Lucio points out, it has yet to win pre-clearance from the Department of Justice. The Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force has said the new map leaves more than 200,000 Latinos in Nueces County “stranded” in a congressional seat (District 27) where they cannot elect their preferred candidate of choice. On Friday, the Task Force announced it had filed a voting rights lawsuit in federal court in San Antonio.

Stories about that lawsuit are here and here. There was already a lawsuit filed by LULAC in the same U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio, and LULAC is listed as a member of the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, so it’s not clear to me if these are separate lawsuits or not. If they are, I’d say the odds are good they eventually get combined. As for Armando Villalobos, he had announced his interest in running for Congress back in May, well before a map made an appearance. As with CD33, we’ll see how the legal reviews shake out.

Two other views of Texas redistricting

Here’s a fascinating paper from the Harvard Election Data Archive that attempts to project how many Congressional seats each party will win based on statewide performance.

Based on the 2008 presidential election results, twenty-two of the twenty-three current Republican members of Congress will be in districts in which Republicans are expected to receive 55 percent of the vote or more, and eight of the nine current Democratic members of Congress will be in districts in which Democrats are expected to receive 55 percent of the vote or more. Democrat Lloyd Doggett’s 25th district will go from 60% Democratic to 55% Republican. Of the four new districts, two are districts where we expect Republicans to receive 55% or the vote or more, and two are districts where we expect Democrats to receive 55% of the vote or more. Consequently, if Doggett is defeated due to the shift of his district from heavily Democratic to Republican, the Republicans will increase their congressional delegation from twenty-three to twenty six seats, and the Democrats from nine to ten seats.[1]

Analysis of the plan also allows us to project the likely division of the legislature for different (hypothetical) divisions of the vote statewide. We plot these results on a seats-votes curve, where each point on the plot represents the percentage of seats that would be won by the Democrats for the given vote share.[2]

This curve reveals two important features of this plan. First, the plan has a partisan bias of 14-17%. Rather than winning 50% of the seats in the hypothetical case where the Democrats win 50% of the vote, the Democrats would win only 43-46% of the seats. To win 50% of the seats, the Democrats would need to win roughly 52-53% of the vote.

Second, the number of seats won by each party is constant for any Democratic share of the vote between thirty-seven and forty-eight percent. This range includes the recent statewide performance of most Democratic candidates over the last ten years, which has averaged 42%. This flat portion of the seats-votes curve indicates extremely low competitiveness in almost all of the congressional districts under this plan. Thus, the plan is not responsive to small changes in the vote share of either party in the range of vote shares that we expect in the next elections. All of the changes in the makeup of Texas’ congressional delegation are likely to be the result of the partisan decisions in the redistricting process, rather than from competitive congressional elections.

I don’t know what methodology they used, so I can’t evaluate that, and their graph isn’t very detailed and probably not exactly to scale – it sure looks to me like the step to an 11th Democratic seat comes at a lower point than 48% – but this is interesting anyway. If you look at the most recent table of 2008 electoral data that I posted, you can surmise which seats are most likely to flip in a better-than-expected year by the Dems. Obviously, there are plenty of other factors in play here – individual Congressfolk can outpace or lag the party average in their district based on their own individual qualities and those of their opponents – and external factors like demography and increased restrictions on voter eligibility may skew things further. But as I’ve said before, the opportunity to pick up a couple of Congressional seats should be a compelling reason for Team Obama to campaign in Texas next year.

Meanwhile, the Lone Star Project provides names and numbers for all of the Democratic-proposed alternate Congressional maps, some of which I had previously looked at. They also provide a useful update to the litigation situation:

  • Plans C122 & C123 are regional proposals made by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). While the MALDEF proposals are not included in the comparison of statewide plans, MALDEF’s proposals will be examined and taken quite seriously during preclearance and other litigation. MALDEF is an important and influential voice in any ongoing litigation.
  • Other important litigants will likely include Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC), NAACP, plaintiffs affiliated with the Texas Justice Fund, some Texas Democratic Members of Congress and, of course, Governor Perry, Greg Abbott and the Secretary of State who will use taxpayer funds to defend and protect the Republican plan.
  • Congressional redistricting lawsuits are already pending in Federal Courts in San Antonio, Austin and Sherman. It is likely that the cases will be consolidated before substantive action is taken.
  • Finally, prior to any action in the Federal Courts in Texas, the State must seek preclearance or federal approval of the plan under Section 5 of the U.S. Voting Rights Act. It is expected that the Republican leadership will bypass the Department of Justice and seek preclearance from the U.S. District Court in Washington, DC. The DC Court is not necessarily a more favorable venue for the Republicans, but it will significantly increase the litigation costs for those opposing the State plan. Of course, Texas taxpayers are forced to pick up the large legal tab run up by the Republican leadership.

There has also now been a lawsuit filed by LULAC in the U.S. District Court’s Western District of Texas. That too may wind up being consolidated with other litigation, though as Greg notes this is probably the one to watch. If the previous two decades are any indicator, we should expect to see some kind of system edit for the 2016 elections.

Civil rights complaint against Texas curriculum

This ought to be interesting.

Two civil rights organizations are seeking a federal review of public school education in Texas, accusing state school administrators of violating federal civil rights laws after curriculum changes approved earlier this year by the Texas Board of Education.

The request to the U.S. Department of Education made by the Texas NAACP and Texas League of United Latin American Citizens on Monday contended that the curriculum changes passed in May “were made with the intention to discriminate” and would have a “stigmatizing impact” on African-American and Latino students.

“The State of Texas is failing to provide many of its minority students with equal educational opportunities,” documents sent to the federal department said.

The request, signed by Gary Bledsoe, president of the state NAACP, and Joey D. Cardenas Jr., state director of Texas LULAC, asked that implementation of the curriculum changes and new standardized tests be stopped for being racially or ethnically offensive or historically inaccurate.

Besides the curriculum complaint, they accused the state, the Texas Education Agency and the Texas Board of Education of “miseducation” of minority students, disparate discipline for minority students, using accountability standards to impose sanctions on schools with high numbers of minority students and rules leading to underrepresentation of minorities in gifted and talented school programs.

That was an AP story; here’s the Chron version. Here’s a press release and a talking points document. This is not a lawsuit, but could possibly turn into one. I wish I could show you the documents they presented, but neither the Texas NAACP nor the Texas LULAC websites had anything relevant. I have no idea what if anything may come of this, but I look forward to seeing whatever does happen. The DMN has more.

San Antonio smoking ban protests

The proposal to strengthen the smoking ban in San Antonio has drawn protest from a previously silent constituency.

LULAC, the San Antonio Mixed Beverage Association, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the San Antonio Restaurant Association joined forces to create the Save Our Jobs Alliance. The coalition opposes strengthening the city’s smoking ban.

LULAC got involved, [its President Rosa] Rosales said, because the organization believes “there is a disparity in the application of this ordinance.”

[…]

The proposal would adversely impact small, minority and women-owned businesses, Rosales said.

She took aim at cigar bars, which could be exempt from the new ordinance.

“Who goes to a bar to buy a $30 cigar? Who goes to a bar to buy a $40 cognac?” she said on the steps of City Hall during the alliance’s news conference Monday. “We don’t do that. We don’t have that kind of money. And that’s disparity treatment.”

Others, including Mi Tierra restaurateur and restaurant association president Ruben Cortez, said the proposed ordinance would put San Antonio businesses at a disadvantage.

“It’s all about economics,” Cortez said. “We’re not fighting the science.”

The San Antonio Mixed Beverage Association’s Bill Johnson, a bar owner who led Monday’s news conference, offered a doomsday scenario if the proposal were adopted later this year. He said it could lead to the loss of “hundreds, possibly thousands” of local jobs in the bar and restaurant industry.

San Antonio’s proposal doesn’t differ that much from what is currently in place in Austin, Houston, and Dallas. El Paso’s “strictest in the nation” smoking ban was enacted in 2002. Only the Alamo City and Fort Worth have more lenient ordinances. I have to ask, how does San Antonio differ from those other cities? Houston’s ordinance specifically exempts cigar bars, too. I don’t recall anyone making this argument about it back then, though I suppose I could have missed it.

As for the claims about job loss, again I say we have many examples to study. The results in El Paso after a year of their new ordinance showed that bars and restaurants did just fine. What San Antonio’s Council is studying isn’t anything new or untested. If you want to make claims about its potential economic impact, show me some data from Austin, Houston, Dallas, or El Paso that backs up those claims. We’re long past the hypothetical stage on anti-smoking ordinances, so please spare me the hyperbole. Show me jobs lost in other cities, or I call BS.

Response from Randle Richardson regarding the CEP report

As noted before, Randle Richardson, the CEO of Community Education Partners (CEP), left a comment on the Hair Balls post in which Houston’s LULAC chapter and the Texas ACLU raised concerns about that report evaluating CEP’s effectiveness. He left a similar comment on my post, and also sent me an email with a couple of other documents, which I will provide here. The comment, which he reproduced in that email he sent me, is as follows:

Response to June 12, 2010 Off the Kuff article entitled, “Not everyone was impressed by that CEP report”

I am writing to address the issues raised in your June 12, 2010 article entitled, “Not everyone was impressed by that CEP report.”

Members of LULAC 402 and the Houston Press questioned the integrity of the report since CEP paid the evaluators and you raised the issue that this should have been disclosed up front. Not having the facts, I understand why you would raise the issue. Here are the facts:

· HISD selected the evaluator. CEP was contractually bound to pay the evaluator regardless of the findings.

· When CEP initially requested the cost of the evaluation be shared by the District during the spring 2009 contract negotiations, HISD explained it was their standard procedure to select the evaluator and the vendor was required to pay for the evaluation.

· The contract between HISD and CEP detailing the terms of the evaluator’s selection and payment is a public document. It has been on file with HISD, therefore available to the public since the contract was executed in March 2009.

I do not believe this small faction of LULAC 402 members, nor the Houston Press, would question the findings of the evaluation or payment terms if the evaluation had been negative toward CEP.

Your article also mentioned that transparency was an issue raised by the Texas ACLU. The ACLU has never visited the CEP Program, never requested information from CEP nor ever expressed a concern to CEP. The contract is a public document and all student data is entered into HISD’s Chancery System. All data is routinely monitored by HISD’s Office of Federal and State Compliance. This information is available to the public.

The LULAC 402 report questions the professors’ methodology and states, “the profs were working with incomplete data.” The standards to evaluate CEP were set forth in the contract and the professors’ were required to analyze the data per those standards.

LULAC 402 is being less than honest in their claim that the professors were working with incomplete data. The A&M professors clearly indicated their first report was a “partial” report; that all data had not yet been collected and that no conclusions could be drawn until all data had been collected and analyzed The analysis done by LULAC 402 was not an analysis of the finished evaluation. Instead, LULAC 402 “analyzed” the partial report. LULAC 402 deliberately ignored Professor Goddard’s declaration that his first release was a partial report and no conclusions could be drawn. Professor Goddard issued a cautionary warning in writing to HISD and CEP not to release the partial report or draw any conclusions from it.

An example of how data has been misinterpreted is the conclusions drawn from the partial report about CEP’s performance under the leaver code standard. The partial report indicated 58 percent of students enrolled in CEP during 2008-09 had been located, which meant CEP did not meet the standard. The final report found that 91 percent of the students enrolled in CEP during 2008-09 had been located, which meant that CEP exceeded the standard.

Please note I refer to LULAC 402 rather than “LULAC,” as referred to in your article. LULAC 402 is one of 18 Houston area LULAC councils. Its “active membership” is small. A small faction of that membership has waged a five-year vendetta against CEP after CEP rejected a proposed program from one their members. Prior to that, we received plaques and thank you letters from LULAC 402.

I am more than happy to review the facts and documents detailing this five-year history, including sworn testimony refuting published statements previously made by the LULAC 402 member whose proposal was rejected by CEP.

For the record, when I spoke of transparency issues, I was referring to HISD, not CEP. I apologize if that was unclear.

The docs Richardson sent me were this snippet from a Texas Public Policy Foundation article on disciplinary alternate education programs (DAEPs) and this letter from Julie Harris-Lawrence of the TEA that praised CEP. See them for yourself. My thanks to Randle Richardson for the feedback.

Not everyone was impressed by that CEP report

Last week, a Texas A&M researcher released a report that evaluated the effectiveness of Community Education Partners (CEP), the provider HISD uses for its disciplinary alternate education program. The evaluation was very positive for CEP, saying it did a good job meeting or exceeding the metrics that are set for it. But since then, there has been some dissension about the report.

Houston’s League of United Latin Americans chapter is slamming a glowing evaluation of the two Community Education Partners schools conducted by two A&M professors.

The professors’ report, which according to an HISD spokesperson was financed by CEP, found that CEP “performed well, relative to expectations.”

But the LULAC report questions the professors’ methodologies and states the profs were working with incomplete data. It also states that an internal CEP report on the number of student dropouts in 2007-08 do not match figures CEP gave to the Texas Education Agency.

There’s an interesting discussion in the comments of that Hair Balls post between Randle Richardson, the CEO of CEP, and Press reporter Craig Malisow about that post and the fact that CEP paid for the report, which their contract with HISD required them to do. I think that’s relevant information that should have been disclosed up front, but I don’t think there’s anything more to it than that. I don’t have LULAC’s report, and I didn’t find it on their website, so I can’t give a detailed analysis of it. Malisow’s response to Richardson suggested the Press may do that, and I hope that’s so. I’ll certainly be on the lookout for it.

LULAC wasn’t the only group unhappy with that report. All I know is I still don’t know what to think about CEP. I definitely agree with the ACLU’s Terri Burke when she says “a lot more transparency” is needed here. In the end, the CEP contract was renewed, so here’s hoping we get that. School Zone has more.

Targeting Frito-Lay

I’ve talked about sporting events like the 2011 MLB All Star Game that are currently scheduled to be held in Arizona and of various ways that people who have some involvement with them have spoken out about Arizona’s “Show me your papers” law in an effort to change the law, or at least change where that sporting event will be played. One group that hasn’t been discussed yet is the sponsors of these events. Well, they’re being pressured, too.

Frito-Lay Inc. is among the “dozens of companies” nationwide being urged to drop sponsorship of sporting events in Arizona following that state’s passage of a controversial immigration bill.

Reports circulated Monday that Latino-activist groups — including the League of United Latin American Citizens — were calling for a boycott of products made by Frito-Lay if the Plano-based snack maker did not end its sponsorship of the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz.

A national spokesman for LULAC, one of the nation’s largest Latino activist groups, said LULAC is not calling for a boycott, though some local members might embrace such a move. He said he is making plans to meet with executives from a variety of companies to talk about their sponsorships.

“Let me be clear: There is no LULAC boycott of Frito-Lay or any other company,” said Brent Wilkes, executive director of the Washington-based group, which has its strongest presence in Texas.

He said Frito-Lay is among the “dozens of companies that we’ve reached out to, to ask them to pull their sponsorship of events in that state.” He did not say if he was meeting with any other Texas companies.

This is a common tactic, and I certainly wish LULAC well with their efforts, but I doubt they will have any effect. Not at this time, at least, what with the Arizona law polling depressingly well. I don’t think they’ll have a broad enough base of support to make this work, especially when you realize that companies that yield to this kind of pressure always face blowback. Again, I wish them well, but it’s going to be a long haul.