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Marc Veasey

Court invalidates CDs 27 and 35

We are one step closer to having a new Congressional map.

Federal judges have invalidated two Texas congressional districts, ruling that they must be fixed by either the Legislature or a federal court.

In a unanimous decision Tuesday, a three-judge panel in San Antonio ruled that Congressional Districts 27 and 35 violate the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act. The judges found that Hispanic voters in Congressional District 27, represented by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, were “intentionally deprived of their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.” Congressional District 35 — a Central Texas district represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin — was deemed “an impermissible racial gerrymander” because mapdrawers illegally used race as the predominant factor in drawing it without a compelling state interest, the judges wrote.

The 107-page ruling — the latest chapter of a six-year court battle over how Texas lawmakers drew political maps — sets up a scramble to redraw the districts in time for the 2018 elections.

The court ordered the Texas Attorney General’s Office to indicate within three business days whether the Texas Legislature would take up redistricting to fix those violations. Otherwise, the state and its legal foes will head back to court on Sept. 5 to begin re-drawing the congressional map — which could shake up other congressional races when the boundaries are changed.

Here is a copy of the ruling, which was unanimous. Michael Li breaks down what this means.

* TX-27 (Farenthold) and TX-35 (Doggett) need to be redrawn – but we knew that already because the court found earlier this year that the configuration of the districts in the 2011 plan was unconstitutional and the 2013 plan made no changes to those districts.

* No further changes need to be made to TX-23 (Hurd) in light of the changes made by the court in the interim plan that then became the 2013 plan. (It is possible there still could be some changes in the Bear County portions of TX-23 as a result of the dismantling of TX-35 but nothing is required).

* No new opportunity district needs to be created in either the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The court’s ruling finds that claims under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act fail because African-Americans and Latinos are not politically cohesive and that any intentional discrimination was adequately remedied by the interim plan/2013 plan as a result of the creation of TX-33 (Veasey).

* No new section 2 district needs to be created in Harris County because African-Americans and Latinos are not politically cohesive.

* BIG FINDING: The court held that the 2013 plan, like the 2011 plan, was intentionally discriminatory. This ruling will play an important role when it comes time for the court to consider whether to put Texas back under preclearance coverage under section 3 of the Voting Rights Act.

From my layman’s perspective, this is a pretty good ruling for the state. CD23 remains intact (though it could be affected by the redrawing of the other two districts), and no new minority opportunity districts need be drawn. The ruling of intent to discriminate is the killer for them, though, as it could mean being put back under preclearance. All things considered, I figure this moves two seats to the Dems, with CD23 remaining a tossup. I suppose Greg Abbott could call another special session to draw a compliant map – they may need another one for the State House soon, too – but I don’t expect that. My guess is the state appeals in the hope of pushing the day of reckoning off into the future, if not winning outright. Stay tuned. The DMN, the Chron, and the Lone Star Project have more.

Redistricting trial update: Invoking privilege

Interesting choice.

Texas’ defense of its electoral maps suffered a setback Friday when a state witness couldn’t defend lawmakers’ intentions for much of his testimony.

[…]

Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, was the chairman of the House Select Committee on Redistricting in 2013. He invoked legislative privilege for more than 20 minutes Friday during the plaintiffs’ cross-examination.

Legislative privilege, according to the Texas Constitution, protects lawmakers from having to explain their decision process. It prevents them from being called into court to explain every law they pass. But it is used with caution because once invoked, a lawmaker can’t choose to answer any questions on the legislative process.

Nina Perales, a lawyer for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which represents a group of Latino lawmakers in the case, asked whether Darby evaluated amendments to the congressional maps based on racial polarization and whether the maps complied with the federal Voting Rights Act.

She asked whether he analyzed the gains of Latino voting power in certain districts and whether court rulings that previously found discriminatory issues with the maps influenced changes made during the 2013 special session. Perales also posed a question about whether an incumbent had proposed changes to his district to preserve his seat.

But because Darby had invoked legislative privilege and could not testify, it effectively ceded ground to Perales, who laid out her argument unchallenged through her line of questioning.

“The fact that he doesn’t testify about his reasons means that the state has no evidence to counter our evidence,” Perales told The Dallas Morning News.

Like I said, interesting choice. This isn’t a criminal case, and there’s no jury, so I presume the judges are free to draw whatever inferences they want from this.

There was more to the state’s defense than that. Both that story and the Trib have those details.

Throughout the week, lawyers representing plaintiffs have offered several alternative House and congressional maps, which they say demonstrate ways to add more opportunity districts and fix violations judges have flagged in past rulings. (The maps were not aimed at maximizing minority representation in Texas, but rather to meet legal standards.)

John Alford, a political science professor at Rice University who the state offered as an expert witness, dismissed those maps as not addressing the problem that the plantiffs claim exist.

“It’s not possible to create an additional majority-minority district in Texas,” Alford said.

[…]

“I don’t think there’s ever been a more exhaustive attempt to redraw a map, than the one here in Texas,” Alford testified.

The state on Friday sought to poke holes in the maps offered by plaintiffs, which rely partly on “coalition” districts where Hispanic and black voters, only in the majority when combined, could elect candidates of their choice — at least in general elections when they overwhelmingly favor Democrats.

Alford, the state’s expert, criticized the plaintiffs’ demonstrated coalition districts, arguing — largely relying on past Democratic primary election results — that Hispanic and black voters in various districts vote differently, preferring candidates of their own race. He underplayed general election data and testimony from voters, which the plaintiffs point to suggest the minority voting groups clearly coalesce around Democrats following primaries.

In that sense, Alford testified, the maps plaintiffs offered would not address Hispanic voters’ statewide underrepresentation.

Lawyers’ for the plaintiffs criticized the minimal value Alford put on general election data, and they highlighted one instance — an even split in black and Hispanic support for U.S. Rep. Mark Veasey, D-Fort Worth, in his 2014 primary win — that did not fit within Alford’s analysis.

The trial is scheduled to wrap up on Saturday. [US Rep. Will] Hurd is expected to testify, and the judges are also expected to pepper lawyers with a lengthy set of lingering questions.

The judges have forty-five questions for the lawyers, which, wow. Alford has been the state’s go-to expert on redistricting for years; he was their expert witness for all of the litigation that followed the DeLay re-redistricting of 2003. Seems to me a claim that you can’t create another majority-minority district in Texas is ludicrous on its face, but that’s for the judges to decide.

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.

Next round of voter ID briefs ordered

Moving right along:

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

With the next election season looming, a federal judge has set a fast-paced schedule for determining whether Texas should be penalized for a voter ID law found to have been written by Republicans to intentionally discriminate against minority voters.

Saying no additional hearings will be needed, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos gave lawyers two weeks to file legal briefs on the matter, with a final round of response briefs due July 17.

Ramos also said she wants to hear arguments about whether Texas should be placed under preclearance — meaning the U.S. Justice Department would have to approve any changes to voting laws or practices in the state.

The order, dated Tuesday, said Ramos will take into consideration Senate Bill 5, which was passed by the Legislature in May to expand the forms of identification that registered voters can use to cast ballots in Texas. The judge gave no other details beyond saying she will weigh SB 5 “to the extent that it, on its face, may be relevant to issues regarding remedies.”

Lawyers for Texas have told Ramos that state election officials need a decision by Aug. 10, when voter certificates are finalized and sent to each county for printing.

See here for the previous update. Note that the August 10 date is a deadline for this November’s election; there is still time to fight over this before 2018, though not that much if we take the primaries into account. Basically, this order says we’re done with presenting evidence, now it’s time to decide what if any remedies are needed to bring the state into compliance. The plaintiffs, citing the previous ruling that the law was enacted with discriminatory intent, want the whole thing thrown out and the status restored to what it was before 2011. The state argues that SB5 fixed all the problems and so no further action is needed. Let’s just say that someone is not going to be happy with the ruling.

The state’s voter ID failure is much bigger than you think

You really have to read this.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

The confusion started in the first hour of the first day of early voting in San Antonio last October.

Signs in polling places about the state’s controversial voter ID law contained outdated rules. Poll workers gave voters incorrect information. Lines were long — full of people who were full of uncertainty.

The presidential election of 2016 was off to a sputtering start in Texas, where years of angry claims about illegal voting had led to a toughening of identification requirements for those going to the polls.

On that day last October, Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, was met with a line out the door when she arrived at her San Antonio polling place.

“A poll worker stood in front of me where I was and said, ‘You are at the one-and-a-half-hour mark,'” Perales said. “And she insisted your ID needed to be out when you got to the front of the line.”

But that, in fact, wasn’t the law. A compromise a federal court had settled on months before allowed those without photo IDs to fill out an affidavit and show alternate ID.

“So, we filed suit against the county,” Perales said.

Days later, Bexar County, home to San Antonio, agreed to try and remedy its mistakes — poll workers would be retrained, signs would be corrected and voicemail instructions for voters would be updated.

But a ProPublica review of the 2016 vote in Texas shows that Bexar County’s problems were hardly isolated — and, in many cases, were beyond fixing.

Indeed, the state’s efforts to enact and enforce the strictest voter ID law in the nation were so plagued by delays, revisions, court interventions and inadequate education that the casting of ballots was inevitably troubled. Among the problems that surfaced:

  • The promised statewide effort to inform Texans about voter identification requirements failed terribly. ProPublica contacted hundreds of community organizations and local county party officials to see if they’d received a voting instruction manual the state said it had sent but could not find one who had used it. The largest voter education groups — League of Women Voters Texas, the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, MALDEF and several disability rights groups — said they didn’t get copies at all.
  • The fiscal note attached to the 2011 bill indicated voter education would cost the state $2 million. That’s one-fifth what a similar bill in Missouri — a state with 21 million fewer people than Texas — allocated. While the Texas secretary of state’s office spent the majority of its voter education budget in 2016 to educate voters about the law, the money appears to have been wasted on an ineffective campaign.
  • The Texas Department of Public Safety, a law enforcement agency tasked with issuing free IDs for voting purposes, initially required those who applied for the ID to be fingerprinted, a decision many say scared off potential voters. DPS also didn’t have Spanish translators in all of its offices and didn’t initially provide applications or information about the free IDs in any language other than English.
  • Remarkably, the very aim of the legislation — to thwart people from voting illegally — was not fully addressed by the law, which allowed three versions of identification obtainable by non-citizens.

Jacquelyn Callanen, the election administrator for Bexar County, said she is still furious about the state’s performance in handling last November’s vote.

“I’ve been doing this for 22 years,” she said. “This was the most complicated and emotionally charged election I have ever seen.”

There’s a ton more, and you need to read the whole thing. It will piss you off, and it should. We know that the state’s so-called voter ID education effort last year was a boondoggle and a failure, but you can’t fully appreciate how big a failure it was without this. Among other things, the story recounts the history of voter ID legislation in Texas, how the Elections department at the Secretary of State’s office became politicized and denuded of competence, and more. As noted by the Brennan Center, there will be a status call on June 7 to sort out the issues in determining a remedy in the wake of the ruling last month that the voter ID law was passed with discriminatory intent. I say any such remedy needs to begin with a complete scrapping of the existing law and an eight-figure campaign to do real voter (and elections administrator) education, done by multiple firms that don’t make BS claims about “proprietary” information. Then maybe, just maybe, we can claim to have set things right. Read the story and see what I mean.

Motion filed to block current Congressional map

From the Lone Star Project.

Moments ago the Plaintiffs in the ongoing Texas congressional redistricting case filed a joint motion asking the San Antonio Federal District Court for an injunction to block the use of the current congressional map during the 2018 mid-term elections.  The motion also suggests a schedule to adopt a new map for use in the 2018 elections.

On March 10, the three-judge Federal District Court in San Antonio with jurisdiction in the Texas case ruled that the congressional plan adopted by Texas Republican leaders in 2011 was intentionally discriminatory in violation the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act.  The Court found violations in Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Austin and the DFW area.

The Plaintiff’s motion explains that the current congressional map retains many of the violations identified by the Court in the 2011 map; therefore, it should not be used in the 2018 election.  Plaintiffs wrote:

“Delaying entry of an injunction following this Court’s finding that the 2011 congressional plan was illegal and unconstitutional, and that elements of these violations persist in C235, would unjustifiably risk forcing Plaintiffs, and, indeed, millions of Texans to elect members of Congress under a legally invalid plan.”

The motion also lays out a timeline to configure a remedial map to use in the 2018 elections.  Texas Republican leaders are given until May 5, 2017 to submit a remedial plan to the Court. Plaintiffs will be required to respond to the state’s map by May 12, 2017.  An order confirming a final remedial map would be issued by July 1, 2017.

Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle released the following statement:
“Every Texan is harmed when statewide leaders engage in intentional discrimination, and no Texan should be subject to the results of an election conducted under an intentionally discriminatory congressional plan.

“The federal court in San Antonio has made clear time and again that they will protect the rights of Texans, and the plaintiffs have laid out a common-sense process to put a legal map in place.”

See here and here for the background. We’re going to need to get something going if there’s to be a chance to have a proper map in place for 2018. (And remember, this is just the Congressional map. We’re still waiting for a ruling on the legislative map, which may require the same process.) As the Trib notes, the state will oppose this motion, so that may draw things out further. We’ll see how it goes.

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.

As goes Tarrant

The Trib ponders the one big urban county that is not like the others.

Among the state’s five biggest counties, Tarrant is the only one that hasn’t backed a Democratic presidential candidate in the past decade. The 2016 presidential election heightened Tarrant’s status as an outlier. Even as the rest of the state’s big-city territories moved deeper into the Democratic column, Tarrant steadfastly emerged as America’s most conservative large urban county.

President-elect Donald Trump, who takes office this week, won the county by an 8.6-point margin. It was the narrowest win for a GOP presidential nominee in decades in Tarrant. But among the country’s 20 largest counties, Tarrant was only one of two that swung Trump’s way in November — and it had the wider margin.

Across Tarrant County, Democratic pockets are fewer and less powerful than their Republican counterparts. All four of the state senate districts that fall in Tarrant County are represented by Republicans. The GOP also holds eight of the county’s 11 state House seats. Four of the five county commissioner court seats are held by Republicans.

Residents, elected officials and experts here point to a nuanced union of demographic, cultural and political forces to explain why.

“There’s just all kinds of interesting numbers out there that make Tarrant County a lot different,” said U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey of Fort Worth, the only Democrat holding one of the county’s five congressional seats.

Tarrant’s minority population, which tends to lean Democratic, hasn’t caught up to the state’s other big urban counties. At the same time, many Tarrant voters have a storied history of preferring practical governance to partisanship, according to officials and political observers. They say that helps support the moderate faction of the GOP, especially in Fort Worth, the nation’s 16th-largest city.

Then there’s the county’s development pattern. A lot of Tarrant remains rural. And, unlike Harris, Dallas and Travis counties, many of Tarrant’s affluent suburbs and conservative bedroom communities lie within its borders, not outside them. That’s helped give rise to the NE Tarrant Tea Party, a passionate and organized group that simultaneously supports far-right local candidates and serves as a powerful base for statewide Republicans.

[…]

Part of what has helped Tarrant become the state’s lone Republican urban county is that its minority populations, which largely and traditionally tend to lean Democratic, haven’t caught up to the state’s other big urban counties.

White residents’ share of the Tarrant population is falling, but it hasn’t declined as quickly as it has in Harris, Dallas, Travis and Bexar, said state demographer Lloyd Potter. The county’s Hispanic population is growing quickly, but it still lags behind the other big counties in terms of raw numbers, Potter added.

But that’s likely to change.

While Tarrant remains more white than Texas as a whole, it’s experienced a more significant drop in its share of white residents in the past 10 years compared to the state. In 2015, the county’s white population dropped to 48.5 percent — down from 56.4 percent in 2005.

Whites’ falling numbers in the county aren’t limited to its urban core in Fort Worth. In fact, the white population experienced a bigger drop in its share of the population in the suburbs from 2005 to 2015.

Here’s a fun fact, which I believe I have mentioned before: Tarrant County is a really good predictor of the overall Presidential race result in Texas. Witness the past four elections:

2004

Statewide – Bush 61.09%, Kerry 38.22%
Tarrant – Bush 62.39%, Kerry 37.01%

2008

Statewide – McCain 55.45%, Obama 43.68%
Tarrant – McCain 55.43%, Obama 43.43%

2012

Statewide – Romney 57.17%, Obama 41.38%
Tarrant – Romney 57.12%, Obama 41.43%

2016

Statewide – Trump 52.23%, Clinton 43.24%
Tarrant – Trump 51.74%, Clinton 43.14%

Almost spooky, isn’t it? One perfectly rational answer to the question “when will Texas turn blue?” is “when Tarrant County also turns blue”.

Anyway. The article is correct that Tarrant differs from the other big urban counties in that it’s actually a lot less urban than they are. Much of Tarrant is suburban, even rural, and that’s just not the case in Harris, Dallas, Bexar, and Travis. Tarrant’s demographics are changing, as the story notes, but I have no idea if there’s anything to suggest its demographics are changing any faster than the state’s are. The statewide judicial races and the one contested district court race were all in the 13-16 point range, which is consistent with the statewide results. I wish I could say I saw something to suggest change was coming faster, but at least in the numbers, I can’t. Maybe someone who is more familiar with the county can chime in.

Having said all this, one big opportunity in 2018 is in Tarrant, and that’s SD10, the Senate seat formerly held by Wendy Davis. Even in the dumpster fire of 2014, freshman Sen. Konni Burton only won by nine points, with 52.83% of the vote. If 2018 is a less hostile year, this is a winnable race, and as I’ve said before, any competitive Senate race is a big deal. Whatever we can do to hasten change in Tarrant County, 2018 would be a good time to do it.

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.

State accused of misleading on voter ID education outreach

I know, I’m as shocked as you are.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

The federal government is accusing Texas of circulating “inaccurate or misleading information” to poll workers and would-be voters about relaxed identification requirements for the November elections.

“Limited funds are being spent on inaccurate materials,” the U.S. Department of Justice wrote in a legal filing Tuesday.

The filing asked U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos to “issue corrections to past press releases and other public statements” by Texas officials and “update and redistribute all electronic resources to reflect that all voters” without one of seven types of photo identification required by a 2011 Texas law may cast a ballot in November.

I told you we shouldn’t take the state’s word for it on anything related to this litigation. Let me quote from the filing to make clear what this is about:

On August 10, 2016, this Court entered an Order directing the State of Texas, Secretary of State Carlos Cascos, and other officials to implement a set of directives for the November 8, 2016 election. Veasey v. Perry, No. 2:13-cv-193, Order Regarding Agreed Interim Plan for Elections (“Remedial Order”) (S.D. Tex. Aug. 10, 2016) (ECF No. 895). The Court ordered:

“Commencing with any elections held after the entry of this Order and until further order of the Court, Defendants shall continue to educate voters in subsequent elections concerning both voter identification requirements and the opportunity for voters who do not possess SB 14 ID and cannot reasonably obtain it to cast a regular ballot.”

Remedial Order ¶ 11 (second emphasis added).

Despite the Remedial Order’s clarity, Texas’s voter education and poll worker training documents depart from it. Rather than educating voters and poll officials about opportunities to cast a regular ballot for those who “do not possess SB 14 ID and cannot reasonably obtain it,” the State has recast that language to limit the opportunity to cast a regular ballot solely to those voters who present SB 14 ID or who “have not obtained” and “cannot obtain” SB 14 ID. That standard is incorrect and far harsher than the Court-ordered standard it would displace. By recasting the Court’s language, Texas has narrowed dramatically the scope of voters protected by the Court’s Order. Moreover, the standard the State’s training and educational materials currently describe has already been rejected by this Court and the Fifth Circuit. At this critical stage, such materials should maximize accuracy and minimize confusion. Texas’s materials do neither.

Plaintiffs have objected to the State’s language repeatedly to attempt to resolve the matter short of court involvement, but Texas has refused to conform all voter education and poll worker training materials to the standard ordered by this Court that voters who “do not possess SB 14 ID and cannot reasonably obtain” SB 14 ID may cast a regular ballot. The State is about to begin a mass media campaign that should educate voters to whom this Court has restored the ability to cast a regular ballot, and an erroneous message would compound—rather than cure—the harm caused by SB 14. The United States therefore respectfully moves to enforce the Remedial Order.

Seems pretty clear to me, and it jibes with the tingly feeling I get in my Spidey-sense when I read the things that people like Harris County Clerk Stan Stanart have been saying about voter ID and the changes to the law that are in effect this November. The state needs to be made to do the right thing because it will not do it on its own. The AG will file its response tomorrow, so we’ll see what they have to say for themselves. The motion is set for hearing on Monday, so we ought to know quickly what will happen. ThinkProgress has more.

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.

Voter ID’s day before the full Fifth Circuit

Here we go again.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

A top lawyer for Texas fiercely defended the state’s strictest-in-the-nation voter identification law on Tuesday, in a high-profile case that could ultimately determine at what point states that assert that they are protecting the integrity of elections cross over into disenfranchisement.

Standing before all 15 members of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller argued that judges were wrong to conclude in two previous rulings that the Texas Legislature discriminated against minority and low-income voters in passing a 2011 law that stipulates which types of photo identification election officials can and cannot accept at the polls.

If those rulings are left as written, “all voting laws could be in jeopardy,” Keller said before a packed courtroom that included his boss, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Lawyers representing the U.S. Department of Justice, minority groups and other plaintiffs disagreed, asking the judges to affirm what a lower court — and a three-judge panel in this same courthouse — previously concluded: that Senate Bill 14 has a “discriminatory effect” on Hispanic, African-American and other would-be voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Only a handful of judges asked questions at length on Tuesday, making it difficult to know where the majority stands. But the 5th Circuit is considered among the nation’s most conservative, with 1o of its members having been appointed by Republican presidents.

Paxton left the courtroom Tuesday feeling “optimistic” that the law, “which has worked” in preventing voter fraud would survive, he told the Tribune.

“There’s been no discriminatory effect shown – they never provided any evidence,” Paxton said. “We’ve done everything we can to provide a way for people to vote. It’s clear.”

Chad Dunn, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said he wouldn’t bother trying to read the judges’ leanings based on their questions, but be nevertheless felt confident, calling the Texas law “indefensible.”

In the courtroom, opponents of the rul argued that not all voter ID laws violate the federal law, but that the state’s unusually short list of what election workers can accept at the polls is particularly burdensome for certain voters — particularly minorities.

“The question is whether there are requirements in SB 14 that are needlessly hard” for certain voters, Dunn told the judges. “The details of this law – which have never been justified — are what make this unconstitutional.”

See here for the background. You pretty much know the story by now, but if you want to engorge yourself on coverage from before the morning of the hearing, here’s the Trib, the Express News, the Associated Press, and Think Progress. The Fifth Circuit will issue a ruling when it is good and ready, but SCOTUS has indicated that there’s a July 20 deadline for deciding whether or not to put an injunction on the law for the November election or not. In the meantime, the Washington Post reminds us what it is like to be on the business end of this law:

In his wallet, Anthony Settles carries an expired Texas identification card, his Social Security card and an old student ID from the University of Houston, where he studied math and physics decades ago. What he does not have is the one thing that he needs to vote this presidential election: a current Texas photo ID.

For Settles to get one of those, his name has to match his birth certificate — and it doesn’t. In 1964, when he was 14, his mother married and changed his last name. After Texas passed a new voter-ID law, officials told Settles he had to show them his name-change certificate from 1964 to qualify for a new identification card to vote.

So with the help of several lawyers, Settles tried to find it, searching records in courthouses in the D.C. area, where he grew up. But they could not find it. To obtain a new document changing his name to the one he has used for 51 years, Settles has to go to court, a process that would cost him more than $250 — more than he is willing to pay.

“It has been a bureaucratic nightmare,” said Settles, 65, a retired engineer. “The intent of this law is to suppress the vote. I feel like I am not wanted in this state.”

If anyone can give me a good reason why Mr. Settles has to go through all that crap in order to be able tovote as he had been voting for nearly 50 years, I’d love to hear it. Actually, I’m tired of arguing the minutiae of this stupid law and its cousins. It’s way past time to establish voting as a constitutional right for all citizens of adult age. Either we’re a democracy or we’re just kidding ourselves. I prefer the former. Trail Blazers has more.

SCOTUS declines to intervene in voter ID case for now

Not what I would have wanted, but not the end of the line.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Even as a federal appeals court prepares to review the constitutionality of Texas’ controversial voter ID law, the law will remain in effect, the U.S. Supreme Court said in an order Friday.

However, noting the time-sensitive nature of the case as the November elections approach, the Supreme Court also hinted that if the full U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals hasn’t issued a definitive ruling by July 20, the justices may revisit the issue.

[…]

Oral arguments are scheduled for May 24.

In the interim, civil rights groups filed a petition with Justice Clarence Thomas, who sits at the head of the 5th Circuit to review emergency appeals. One the groups, the Campaign Legal Center, asked the Supreme Court to strike down the questionable laws while their legality is determined, so that there is sufficient time to spread information about who can vote in the November general elections.

Texas officials asked the justices to let the law stand, arguing that Texas will ultimately win the case. If the law were struck down temporarily and then restored later, it would cause “irreparable injury,” they said.

On Friday, the Supreme Court sided with Texas officials – but seemed to push the 5th Circuit toward making a speedy ruling as the presidential election approaches.

“The Court recognizes the time constraints the parties confront in light of the scheduled elections in November,” the Supreme Court’s order said. “If, on or before July 20, 2016,” the 5th Circuit hasn’t taken any action, the nine justices might revisit the issue, it added.

See here, here, and here for some background. A fuller quote from the SCOTUS ruling, via the Chron story, is “If, on or before July 20, 2016, the Court of Appeals has neither issued an opinion on the merits of the case nor issued an order vacating or modifying the current stay order, an aggrieved party may seek interim relief from this Court by filing an appropriate application. An aggrieved party may also seek interim relief if any change in circumstances before that date supports further arguments respecting the stay order.” We’ll see if this at least puts a bit of a fire underneath the Fifth Circuit’s robes. A statement from the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) is beneath the fold, and the Lone Star Project and Trail Blazers have more.

(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.

Full Fifth Circuit will hear voter ID appeal

Here we go again.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

The full U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to take up the Texas voter ID case Wednesday, adding another chapter to the law’s convoluted journey through the federal court system.

The decision to hear the case, Veasey v. Abbott, en banc comes more than six months after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the full court to review a three-judge panel’s ruling that the law has a “discriminatory effect” that violates the Voting Rights Act, but that it is not a “poll tax” barred under the U.S. Constitution.

“Today’s decision is a strong step forward in our efforts to defend the state’s Voter ID laws,” Paxton said in a statement. “Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is a primary function of state government and is essential to preserving our democratic process. We look forward to presenting our case before the full Fifth Circuit.”

Civil rights groups and the U.S. Justice Department had urged the court not to revisit the case. But Paxton argued in a series of appeal filings in August that the plaintiffs had not named any Texans “whose right to vote will be denied or even substantially burdened by maintaining the status quo.”

[…]

Election law expert Rick Hasen noted Wednesday that the current impasse over the next Supreme Court nomination may add even further significance to 5th Circuit’s ruling.

“The stakes are especially high because this is a case which could divide 4-4 before the current Supreme Court, meaning what the entire 5th circuit does may be the final word on Texas’s law,” Hasen wrote on his blog.

No date has been announced for arguments in the case.

See here and here for the background. Let me quote from Rick Hasen’s post to get a feel for this:

It is not clear what internal deliberations were taking place at the 5th Circuit which took the Court more than 5 months to issue this order, but the full 5th Circuit will consider Veasey v. Abbott en banc by the full court. Veasey was significant because this was a case where the court gave a narrow but real victory to voter id plaintiffs in finding a Voting Rights Act Section 2 violation. The stakes are especially high because this is a case which could divide 4-4 before the current Supreme Court, meaning what the entire 5th circuit does may be the final word on Texas’s law.

Given the makeup of the 5th Circuit, as well as the panel members in the original decision, it is not clear how the panel will vote in this case, but if I were plaintiffs I would not be too happy with this order.

There is also the issue of timing—the Fifth Circuit will rule, and who knows how close this will be to the election, and if the Court will let the voter id law be in effect for this election. One can imagine judges on the 5th Circuit who want Texas to use the voter id law in this election to drag their feet long enough to assure a decision does not come until after the election.

Well, I can’t say I’m happy about this either, but it is what it is. The three-judge panel in this case was two to one Democratic, but the decision was unanimous, so there you go. It should be noted that if the plan is to delay any decisions till after November, then by the time it gets to SCOTUS we could have a President Clinton-appointed Justice filling out the bench, so it’s not clear what that buys you. We’ll see when they set a date. Trail Blazers, Paradise In Hell, ThinkProgress, and the Press has more.

Another legal bill for Texas

That’s what happens when you lose.

Sen. Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to let stand a ruling that awarded more than $1.1 million to lawyers who represented former Democratic state Sen. Wendy Davis and several minority-rights groups in a case challenging Texas’ redistricting plans.

The justices this week refused to review the state’s appeal of legal fees granted to opponents of a lawsuit Texas filed seeking federal approval of political maps drawn by the Republican-led Legislature in 2011.

The decision is a blow to Attorney General Ken Paxton and former attorney general Greg Abbott. Combined, the two led the state’s fight against paying the lawyers since it was ordered by a federal judge in Washington, D.C., more than a year and a half ago.

A group of Hispanic voters that sued the state, known as the “Gonzales intervenors,” are due nearly $600,000, according to a court order from June 2014.

Another group led by Davis, a former gubernatorial candidate, and U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, both Fort Worth Democrats, was awarded $466,680. The Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches was granted $32,374, according to the court.

Lawyers in the case said the final figure owed by the state will climb once fees for the appeal process and Supreme Court briefings are tallied.

Renea Hicks, an Austin attorney who represented the Gonzalez intervenors, said the state aggressively fought against the legal-fee award.

“It’s the end of the rope,” he said. “No place to turn, except to the checkbook.”

Sorry fellas. You lost, fair and square, so now pay up. Now if we can only get a ruling from the lower court on what the maps should be, we might just be able to wrap this up before we have to start drawing new maps for the next Census.

State cuts off funds to Planned Parenthood for HIV testing

Seriously?

Right there with them

Right there with them

Amid an ongoing battle over Planned Parenthood’s participation in the state Medicaid program, Texas health officials are cutting off funding to a Planned Parenthood affiliate for an HIV prevention program.

In a notice received by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast late Monday, an official with the Department of State Health Services informed the Houston-based provider that it would not renew its contract for HIV prevention services.

The long-standing grant, which funds HIV testing and prevention services, was set to expire on Dec. 31, according to the notice which was obtained by the Texas Tribune.

“There will be no further renewals of this contract,” a DSHS official wrote in the notice to Planned Parenthood.

The contract is federally funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but managed by the state. A spokeswoman for the CDC said she was unaware of the state’s notice and did not immediately provide comment.

By ending Planned Parenthood’s contract, the state is cutting off almost $600,000 in annual funding, which the health care provider used for HIV testing and counseling, condom distribution and referral consultations.

Incredible. At least with the cutoff of Women’s Health Program funds, the state made some arrangements for alternate options. It was half-assed and still caused a huge unnecessary upheaval for thousands of women, but there was at least a token gesture towards maintaining the service. That doesn’t appear to be the case here, or at least the flunkies at the HHSC had no comment at the time the story was published. Unless PPGC decides to continue this on its own dime, this service just goes away. Because why would Greg Abbott care about people who might have HIV? And remember, the root of all this is a pack of lies that the state is hoping you’ll all forget.

The Chron story on this is here. I don’t know if this action can be wrapped into the ongoing litigation over the state cutting off Medicaid funds for Planned Parenthood, but regardless perhaps some political pressure can be applied.

Texas Democrats in Congress sent a letter to the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services this month asking that they “explore all options available at the federal level” to stop the State of Texas from blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding for health services.

[…]

“Members of the delegation understand that there is a precedent for intervention, and several options available for the federal government to bring Texas into compliance with federal law,” said Congressman Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth. “In the past, CMS has decreased or removed federal funding from Texas, which we do not want to happen again as doing so would decrease access to care instead of expanding it.”

Click over to see the letter, which was signed by ten members of the Texas Congressional delegation. The Observer and the Press have more.

State ordered to pay fees in redistricting litigation

They don’t seem to be interested in doing that, however.

BagOfMoney

In a scolding tone, a federal appeals court panel in Washington, D.C., ordered the state of Texas on Tuesday to pay more than $1 million in attorneys’ fees in a case challenging district boundaries drawn by the Republican-led Legislature.

First under the direction of then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and now under Attorney General Ken Paxton, the state has been fighting a court order for more than a year to pay the lawyers who battled the state over the issuance of redistricting maps for the Texas House, Texas Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.

A spokeswoman for Paxton, Cynthia Meyer, didn’t specify the state’s next steps. In an email, she said only: “This decision is disappointing for the state of Texas.”

A group of Hispanic Texans suing the state known as the “Gonzales intervenors” expects to take nearly $600,000 of the $1 million-plus in ordered fees from the state. A group that was led by former state Sen. Wendy Davis and U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, both Fort Worth Democrats, should be awarded $466,680, and the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches is owned $32,374, according to the court. The groups argued that boundaries were drawn to dilute the voting power of Hispanics and African-Americans.

Attorney Chad Dunn, a lawyer for the Davis group, said that he and other lawyers have repeatedly asked the attorney general’s office to pay the fees — only to be stonewalled, even in the face of a court order, issued in June 2014.

“If you or I or anybody else had done that, we would lose,” Dunn said. “What the D.C. Circuit has made clear is that Texas has to follow the same rules as any other litigant.”

Judge Patricia Millett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit admonished the state for its refusal to file the proper documents, and the court seemed to chide the state’s lawyers for filing an incomplete advisory.

By not following the rules, Texas has limited its options, the court said.

“(T)he district court held that Texas had conceded virtually all of the issues relevant to the motions for attorneys’ fees by deliberately choosing not to address them,” the court said. “Rejecting Texas’ cursory ‘Advisory’ argument, the district court granted the motions and awarded fees.”

[…]

The appeals court opinion comes a year after U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer’s order that criticized lawyers in Abbott’s office for submitting a legal brief that devoted more effort to complaining than answering the legal issues in the fight over lawyer fees.

“This matter presents a case study in how not to respond to a motion for attorney fees and costs,” Collyer, appointed by former President George W. Bush, said in the June 2014 order.

A spokeswoman for Abbott said at the time that Texas shouldn’t be made to pay other parties’ legal fees in a case the state considers that it won.

I guess that’s one way to get out of an order you don’t like. Just declare yourself the actual winner of the case, and thus not subject to any orders about attorneys’ fees. SCOTUSBlog has a succinct explanation of why Texas’ position was erroneous, at the end of a much longer discussion of overall case:

In June 2014, U.S. District Judge Rosemary M. Collyer in Washington ruled that the three groups of challengers were entitled to recover their attorney fees expenses from Texas. The filing by the state’s lawyers, the judge wrote, “fails to recognize that the limited holding of Shelby County did not resolve the issues here.”

It was not the court’s duty, the judge added, to ask Texas to come up with some reasons to oppose the attorney fee requested. “Texas has had every chance to oppose the fees and costs that the applicants seek,” she added, but “it instead opted to file a three-page advisory that ignored every argument of applicants except the applicability of Shelby County.”

Under local court rules, the judge found, Texas had forfeited its right to oppose the fee award because of its failure to make an argument against it. Finding the voters and officeholders to have prevailed, she awarded one group $597,715.60 in fee recovery, another group $466,680.36, and the third $32,374.05 — for a total just under $1.1 million. Those amounts, the judge ruled, were reasonable.

At Texas’s request, Judge Collyer put her order on hold so that the state could appeal.

That appeal ended on Tuesday, with the D.C. Circuit upholding the fee awards, concluding that the Supreme Court’s June 2013 order did not settle the Texas redistricting case and did not resolve who would be the “prevailing party” in that case.

The Justices’ order, the panel said, was like many others in similar cases. All that the Court meant by that action, the decision added, was that there had been intervening developments that might suggest a need for the lower court to reconsider. This was not a ruling on the redistricting dispute, according to the panel, and it added: “It certainly did not declare Texas the victor.”

So there you go. As far as getting the state to quit making stuff up and pay its bills, I have an idea for how to get Ken Paxton’s attention, if it pleases the court: Just threaten to hold him in contempt of court. Recent history suggests that he will move quickly to comply with whatever you order, whatever it takes to stay out of the pokey. Just a suggestion, no pressure or anything.

Voter ID appeal report

The Trib reports from New Orleans.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

A federal appellate judge on Tuesday questioned why the Texas Legislature had not addressed concerns that its four-year-old voter ID law discriminated against minority voters.

U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Catharina Haynes stopped short of rebuking state lawmakers while listening to attorneys spar over what are widely considered the nation’s strictest rules on the identification that voters must present at the polls. But she sounded perplexed that lawmakers had not made the law more palatable to critics as it winded through the federal court system.

“They’re meeting right now. They had that opportunity. What are they doing?” Haynes asked from a perch on a three-judge panel of the appeals court.

“Why wouldn’t the legislative system fix the [Texas] rules?” added Haynes, who was appointed to the court by George W. Bush. “Why should we fix the [Texas] rules?”

[…]

Haynes, known for playing devil’s advocate on both sides of various issues, did the most talking – and grilling – on Tuesday while Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller and lawyers for the plaintiffs, including minority groups and the U.S. Department of Justice, made their cases.

The 5th Circuit is considered among the most conservative in the nation, but Democrats appointed her colleagues on the panel — Judge Nannette Brown, who did not ask any questions Tuesday, and Chief Judge Carl Stewart.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said the evidence of Texas’ intent to disenfranchise would-be minority voters was sound, supporting Ramos’ ruling, which relied on statements from lawmakers who were opponents of the ID measures and said that state lawmakers did not accommodate poor Texans. The law was passed during what Ramos called a “racially charged” legislative session that also saw debates about immigration and sanctuary cities.

“What Texas has done is more severe than any other state in the nation,” said Chad Dunn, one of the plaintiffs’ attorneys.

Keller on Tuesday reiterated the state’s claim that the law has not disenfranchised any voters, saying Ramos’ decision was plagued by “some clearly erroneous fact-finding.”

“There was been no showing of any voter not able to vote because of Senate Bill 14,” he said, pointing out that those who faced difficulties obtaining the right documents could still vote by mail.

Keller argued that the plaintiffs had found no smoking gun – a statement or email for instance – in which proponents of the law overtly described an intention to discriminate.

Haynes and Stewart sounded skeptical of that critique.

“It’s unlikely that someone’s going to get up and say overtly: ‘Let’s discriminate,’ in a debate in the House or Senate,” Haynes said.

Stewart said “strong circumstantial evidence” is a typical standard in proving discrimination cases.

But the judges also questioned the plaintiffs’ partial reliance on testimony from lawmakers opposed to the law to prove the Legislature’s intention to discriminate.

“Using the evidence about what the opponents of the law thought proponents thought,” Haynes said, “just seems like the rankest speculation.”

See here for the background. Zachary Roth at MSNBC adds on.

Again and again, Judge Caterina Haynes seemed to argue for sending the case back to Judge Gonzales Ramos. She noted that a major statewide election had been held since the district court’s ruling last October, which could offer key evidence about the controversial law’s real world impact.

“Were people having trouble? Were there in fact problems?” Haynes asked, suggesting that the district court should be asked to incorporate the election as additional evidence.

Erin Flynn, a lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department, which is challenging the law, countered that looking at one election doesn’t tell you much. “Turnout is not a good proxy for identifying how burdensome requirements are,” Flynn said.

And Dunn said that the record would show the last election was a “disaster” for the plaintiffs and thousands of others. Numerous stories have emerged of would-be voters who were disenfranchised by the law last fall, which was put into effect by a last-minute Supreme Court order.

Haynes, an appointee of President George W. Bush, also at times raised the idea of asking the district merely to find a narrower remedy, rather than striking down the law in full, as it did.

She suggested that voters at least be required to show a registration card. “Why wouldn’t that cure the problem?”

“The questions of the judges suggested that they were looking at both whether or not the remedy was more broad than it needed to be, and whether or not additional fact-finding would be helpful,” Myrna Perez, a top lawyer for the Brennan Center for Justice, which is helping to bring the challenge, said after the hearing.

The panel’s other two judges, Chief Judge Carl Stewart and Judge Brown, both appointed by Democratic presidents, held their cards closer to their chests. But Stewart at times suggested he too might favor returning the case to the district court.

That result would leave the law, and the fate of hundreds of thousands of potential voters, in limbo, four years after the measure was first passed.

To answer Judge Haynes’ question, showing one’s voter registration card was the system we had before voter ID. I for one would be in favor of returning to that. Beyond that, who knows what the panel will make of this. They have no set schedule for ruling, so we’ll know what they think when they’re good and ready to tell us.

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.

The best coverage of the voter ID trial

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

You want to know what’s going on with the voter ID trial, which enters its second and likely final week today, go check out the Brennan Center for Justice, which has daily coverage that would put any newspaper to shame. Here’s a sample of what they’ve written so far:

Further daily dispatches will be on this page, and there’s also their Twitter feed if you can’t wait that long. The main page has more information in addition to their trial reporting, so go take a nice long look. If that still isn’t enough, copies of all the court documents can be found at the Moritz Law School repository. I trust that will be enough to hold you off. Thanks to the Texas Election Law Blog for the heads up.

Mayor Parker discusses her possible political future again

After making a rousing speech at the TDP convention, Mayor Annise Parker talked about some possible paths she could take for a future statewide campaign.

Mayor Annise Parker

Mayor Annise Parker

Parker said she would be interested in running for any number of statewide positions when her third and final two-year term is up in 2016 – even Texas’ top job.

“I would absolutely consider a statewide ballot effort for the right seat,” Parker told the Houston Chronicle, adding that she doesn’t have an exact plan drawn up at this time. “And as the CEO of the 4th largest city in America, I could be the governor of Texas.”.

The 58-year-old said she would be “eminently qualified” to be comptroller of public accounts, Texas land commissioner or sit on the three-member Texas Railroad Commission.

The only jobs for which she isn’t interested? Lieutenant governor and U.S. Congress. “Respectfully to members of Congress, I’m the CEO of a $5 billion corporation, and I make decisions every day. I don’t want to go talk about things. I want to do things.”

I’ve discussed this before, and I’m mostly not surprised by Parker’s words. The one office I hadn’t foreseen as a possibility was Land Commissioner, but between veterans’ issues and the leases that the GLO manages and grants on occasionally urban land, it makes sense. And of course the Railroad Commission is all about oil and gas regulation, and Mayor Parker spent 20 years in the oil business before entering politics. Other than the RRC, which has six-year terms for its three Commissioners, the candidacy of Mayor Parker or anyone else for these offices is contingent on them not being won by a Democrat this year. As awesome as that would be, it would throw a wrench into the works for the large number of potential up-and-comers now waiting in the wings.

For her part, Parker is watching the political trajectories of two other Houston women: state Sen. Sylvia Garcia and state Rep. Carol Alvarado. A fellow former mayor who now sits in the state Senate, Kirk Watson, is also on her list of rising stars, as are Mayor Julian Castro and U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.

The twin brothers from San Antonio are widely accepted to become the default face of the party after this year’s statewide election. Speaking to the Chronicle after his speech in a packed convention hall Friday evening, the congressman would not preview where his political trajectory might lie.

“I’ll look at all opportunities where I can be most helpful,” said Joaquin Castro. He added he hasn’t yet decided whether he might run for another office, such as U.S. Senate. Some see him as a natural foil to Ted Cruz, R-Texas.

His brother, tapped by President Barack Obama to be the next housing secretary, is also considered one of the most viable statewide or national candidates from the party, although some worry whether his political standing will suffer at the hands of Republicans in Washington as so many other cabinet secretaries have in recent years.

Representing Texas in Washington, U.S. Reps. Marc Veasey and Pete Gallego repeatedly made the “best of” lists of many state party leaders this weekend.

In Dallas, state Rep. Rafael Anchia and Sen. Royce West are ones to watch, they said, while Sylvester Turner is another prominent Houstonian with political potential.

I’ve discussed the bench and the possible next step for a variety of Dems before. One person who isn’t mentioned in this story but should be is State Rep. Mike Villarreal of San Antonio, who has been previously mentioned as a candidate for Comptroller and who has announced his intent to run for Mayor of San Antonio in 2015. Winning that would move him up a notch on the “rising stars” list as he’d be a Mayor with legislative experience; you can add Rep. Sylvester Turner to that list if his third try for Mayor of Houston is the charm in 2015, too.

Besides the RRC, there is one prize that will remain on the board for 2018 regardless of what happens this year.

“It’s very different to run for statewide office unless you have statewide name recognition,” said [TCU poli sci prof James] Riddlesperger, who said the sheer amount of money statewide candidates in Texas are forced to raise to be viable pushes some out of the race before they can get started.

“It’s not like doing it in New Hampshire or South Dakota. We have six or seven major media markets and it’s enormously expensive to get statewide recognition,” said Riddlesperger. Keeping this in mind, he said the Democrats should keep a close eye on who could unseat Cruz in 2018.

“I suspect there would be a huge amount of national money that could potentially flow into that election,” he said.

Indeed. I mean, the amount spent in the 2018 re-election campaign for Ted Cruz on all sides will likely rival the GDP of several small nations. The story suggests US Rep. Joaquin Castro as the very-early-to-be-leading choice to take on Cruz, but I suspect we will hear a lot of other voices before all is said and done, whether or not there are fewer incumbent Republicans to oppose at that time. I don’t want to spend too much time thinking about this since we have some pretty damn important elections to focus on this year, but file that all away for future consideration.

No hiding behind privilege

Here’s your latest voter ID litigation update, from the Brad Blog:

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Just over a week ago, it was North Carolina legislators ordered by the court to cough up documentation relating to passage of new, draconian restrictions on voting rights in their state. Now, legislators in Texas are facing much the same thing, as that state’s extreme polling place Photo ID restrictions also face legal and Constitutional challenge.

By way of an eight-page Order [PDF]issued late last week, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos has directed the State of Texas to serve upon the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) documents that relate to the question of whether “state legislators, contrary to their public pronouncements, acted with discriminatory intent in enacting SB 14,” the Lone Star State’s polling place Photo ID restriction law.

[…]

As the DoJ explained in a supplement [PDF] to its motion to compel the release of documentation relating to legislative deliberation before enactment of the law, Texas refused to turn over a wide array of relevant documents, including “numerous communications concerning SB 14 and prior photographic voter identification proposals amongst Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Speaker Joe Straus, Senator Troy Fraser (Senate sponsor of SB 14), Representative Patricia Harless (House sponsor of SB 14), and their top aides.”

Texas Republicans asserted that they could conceal such evidence because of what they claim to be an “absolute” legislative privilege — this despite numerous cases in which courts have not only held otherwise, but have relied upon such things as emails between legislators as evidence of discriminatory intent, according to the DoJ filing.

Federal judges, in this case, and in the pending federal challenge to North Carolina’s massive election “reform” bill have now both rejected the effort by Republicans to hide documentary evidence of discriminatory intent behind a shield of “absolute” legislative privilege.

As occurred in the North Carolina case, Judge Gonzales recognized the existence of a “qualified” legislative privilege to protect such documents from being released. The question as to whether documents must be produced is arrived at by applying a five-part test: “(1) the relevance of the evidence sought to be protected; (2) the availability of other evidence; (3) the seriousness of the litigation and the issues involved; (4) the role of the government in the litigation; and (5) the possibility of future timidity by government employees who will be forced to recognize that their secrets are violable.”

That five-part test weighs the need for confidentiality amongst legislators and their aides against the need to eliminate “racial discrimination in voting — the bedrock of this country’s democratic system of government,” as described by Ramos in her ruling.

Click over for further details. Texas Redistricting was also on this. There’s also an update to the scheduling order for the trial, which remains on September 2.

Primary results: Legislature and Congress

Rep. Lon Burnam

The big news on the Democratic side is the close loss by longtime Rep. Lon Burnam in HD90, who fell by 111 votes to Ramon Romero Jr. I know basically nothing about Rep.-elect Romero, but I do know that Rep. Burnam has been a progressive stalwart, and it is sad to see him go. His district is heavily Latino, and he defeated a Latino challenger in 2012, but fell short this year. Congratulations to Rep.-elect Romero. Also in Tarrant County, Annie’s List-backed Libby Willis will carry the Democratic banner in SD10 to try to hold the seat being vacated by Wendy Davis. Elsewhere in Democratic legislative primaries, Rep. Naomi Gonzalez, who earned a Ten Worst spot this past session for a DUI bust during the session, was running third for her seat. Cesar Blanco, a former staffer for Rep. Pete Gallego, was leading with over 40% and will face either Gonzalez or Norma Chavez, whom Gonzalez had defeated in a previous and very nasty primary. I’m rooting for Blanco in either matchup. All other Dem incumbents won, including Rep. Mary Gonzalez in HD75. Congressional incumbents Eddie Berniece Johnson and Marc Veasey cruised to re-election, while challengers Donald Brown (CD14), Frank Briscoe (CD22), and Marco Montoya (CD25) all won their nominations.

On the Republican side, the endorsements of Rafael Cruz and Sarah Palin were not enough for Katrina Pierson in CD32, as Rep. Pete Sessions waltzed to a 68% win. Rep. Ralph Hall, who was born sometime during the Cretaceous Era, will be in a runoff against John Ratcliffe in CD04. All other GOP Congressional incumbents won, and there will be runoffs in CDs 23 and 36, the latter being between Brian Babin and Ben Streusand. I pity the fool that has to follow Steve Stockman’s act.

Some trouble in the Senate, as Sen. Bob Deuell appears headed for a runoff, and Sen. John Carona appears to have lost. Sen. Donna Campbell defeats two challengers. Those latter results ensure the Senate will be even dumber next session than it was last session. Konni Burton and Marc Shelton, whom Wendy Davis defeated in 2012, are in a runoff for SD10.

Multiple Republican State Reps went down to defeat – George Lavender (HD01), Lance Gooden (HD04), Ralph Sheffield (HD55), Diane Patrick (HD94), Linda Harper-Brown (HD105), and Bennett Ratliff (HD115). As I said last night, overall a fairly tough night for Texas Parent PAC. Rep. Stefani Carter (HD102), who briefly abandoned her seat for an ill-fated run for Railroad Commissioner, trailed Linda Koop heading into a runoff.

I’ll have more thoughts on some of these races later. I’d say the “establishment” Republican effort to push back on the Empower Texas/teabagger contingent is at best a work in progress. May open an opportunity or two for Dems – I’d say HD115 is now on their list in a way that it wouldn’t have been against Rep. Ratliff – but barring anything strange we should expect more of the same from the Lege in 2015.

Endorsement watch: Davis for Alameel

This was unexpected, at least by me.

David Alameel

Texas Democrats may be working on drafting a 2014 dream team.

State Sen. Wendy Davis announced today that she’s backing David Alameel in his bid for the U.S. Senate nomination.

The wealthy Dallas dentist and investor is one of five Democrats vying in the March primary. The winner will face two-term Sen. John Cornyn, if he survives his own primary fight with Rep. Steve Stockman and a handful of others.

“Dr. Alameel is an astute and successful business leader who shares my commitment to creating good paying jobs, improving education for all our children and protecting the retirement our seniors have worked hard for and earned,” said Davis, D-Fort Worth. “I am pleased to endorse him for U.S. Senate.”

Davis gained national attention last summer after an 11-hour filibuster over an abortion bill. Since then, she has become a rallying point for Democrats hoping to put some blue back in Texas’ deep red Republican politics. She’s likely to face Attorney General Greg Abbott in November.

“I am honored to have the support and encouragement from my good friend, Senator Wendy Davis,” Alameel said in a statement. “Wendy knows I will work hard to make sure every Texan has a real voice in Washington and that I will bring fair and common sense leadership back to our nation’s capital.”

Alameel brings deep pockets to the race, with an estimated fortune of about $50 million. He flexed his financial muscle in a 2012 campaign for what is now Rep. Marc Veasey’s Fort Worth congressional district. He spend more than $4.5 million in the Democratic primary, ending up in fourth place with 10 percent of the vote.

Alameel would not be my first choice, in part because I know precious little about him. His webpage is new and as of this morning still hasn’t been indexed by Google – his old webpage is still the first result when you Google his name, and it doesn’t redirect to the new webpage – and his Facebook page was created January 6 and isn’t displayed when you enter “David Alameel” in Facebook’s search box. The main thing I learned when I did find these two pages is that Alameel has been endorsed by Wendy Davis.

I’m personally leaning towards Maxey Scherr, who I think has the highest upside and who has been the most active campaigner so far. Mike Fjetland is someone I’ve known for several years for whom I have a lot of respect. But Davis prefers Alameel, and while it’s easy to see a financial motive in that choice, I’ll take her at her word. Be all that as it may, let’s not forget that the real bottom line here is to ensure that LaRouchie wacko Kesha Rogers is not the nominee. We can argue all we want about which of the others is the best choice, but right now I care more about Rogers not being the nominee than I do about who is.

More primary thoughts

I wonder if Big John Cornyn will come to rue this interview.

Big John Cornyn

Big John Cornyn

BDS: At the kickoff for your reelection campaign in November, Governor Perry said that you are “the epitome of what I look for in a U.S. senator.” He has certainly been embraced by members of the tea party. But in your speech you said that Republicans should be the party of the “big tent,” which sounded an awful lot like it was pointed in their direction.

JC: To be clear, I was talking about being a welcoming party, not an exclusive party. I don’t know how we got off on this track, where some people are welcome in our party and some people are not. Hence my reference to Ronald Reagan’s line, “What do you call someone who agrees with you eight times out of ten? An ally, not a twenty-percent traitor.” Well, we’re at a point where you can agree with someone 98 percent of the time, but they think of you as a 2 percent traitor, which is just an impossible standard. I like to point out that my wife and I have been married for 34 years, we don’t agree with each other 100 percent of the time. We need to be a little more realistic about the goals, and we need to look not just at the short term but at the long term. If the goal is to change the direction of the country—and I would say to save the country from the big government track we’re on now—then we have to win elections by adding voters, not subtracting them.

That sound you hear is Steve Stockman rubbing his hands and cackling with glee. Remember, Steve Stockman is nuts. I know that term gets thrown around a lot, but seriously. That boy ain’t right.

Josh Marshall ponders what the implications are of Stockman’s entrance.

Everyone seemed to think Cornyn had successfully evaded a challenge and that he was home free. And Stockman got in just under the wire. I’m curious whether he waited so long precisely to assure a serious Democrat didn’t get into the race. As long as there’s no serious Democrat running, that will make it easier for him to argue he’s not another Akin in the making.

Of course, he is basically an Akin in the making, or an Akin before there was Akin (Stockman first came in in the ’94 Republican landslide but was too nuts and got bounced out after one term). But if there’s no credible Dem, maybe he gets through?

I seriously doubt the condition of the Democratic field for Senate had anything to do with Stockman’s move. I don’t think he operates that way, and I don’t think the Texas GOP would behave any differently towards him if he wins the nomination regardless. A better question is whether or not the DSCC and other national Dem groups get involved in the event it’s Stockman versus Maxey Scherr or David Alameel or Mike Fjetland. If it winds up as Stockman versus Kesha Rogers, we may as well just admit that this whole experiment in self-governance has been an abject failure and see if Great Britain is willing to take us back.

Speaking of Maxey Scherr, the El Paso Times covered her campaign kickoff in Austin.

[Scherr] said she is coordinating her effort with statewide Democratic organizations that are hopeful that with Texas’ changing demographics and, in Wendy Davis, an attractive candidate at the top of the ticket, 2014 will be the year Texas starts to turn blue.

[…]

“If I can raise $7 million, I can be competitive, and I think I can,” she said.

She plans to suspend her law practice and spend the coming year the same way she spent Monday — traveling the state in a motor home towing a car with a smashed-in hood and emblazoned with her campaign slogan, “Texas on Cruz Control.”

If she wins the Democratic Primary, Scherr will likely face Cornyn, but she says her real opponent is Texas’ junior senator, Ted Cruz, who won’t be on the ballot until 2018.

“This race is about Ted Cruz,” Scherr said. “This race is about Ted Cruz because John Cornyn has taken a back seat to Ted Cruz. It’s unfortunate that our senior senator of Texas has done everything that Ted Cruz, the junior senator, wants him to. He doesn’t have the guts to stand up to Ted Cruz on anything that matters to Texans and I will.”

[…]

Among the issues Scherr plans to attack Cornyn are education, health care, women’s rights and immigration. On the latter topic, Scherr said she’s tired of Republicans whipping up false fears about security on the border.

“Ted Cruz and John Cornyn have voted against a comprehensive immigration reform bill every single time it has come up. I find that offensive,” she said.

“I come from El Paso and El Paso been consistently rated as one of the safest cities for several years. What these guys want to do is militarize our border, put a military-type outfit along the border. But they are wrong about that. El Paso is a huge border city and we don’t need to militarize it. We are safe as can be. What we need to do is pass comprehensive immigration reform that doesn’t tear apart families.”

Even if Emperor Cruz stays out of the GOP Senate primary – well, at least if he doesn’t take any overt action – a Stockman win would cement the point that Scherr is making about Cruz driving the action. In a sane world, Cornyn would have nothing to worry about in March. He may yet have nothing to worry about, but I doubt he’ll run his campaign that way. Of the sane Democrats running, I see Scherr as having the highest upside. I look forward to seeing her first couple of finance reports to see if she can make any headway on that fundraising goal.

More news from El Paso:

Meanwhile, all of the El Paso County incumbents in the Texas House of Representatives have filed for re-election.

Four have challengers.

District 76 Rep. Naomi Gonzalez faces former state Rep. Norma Chavez and Cesar Blanco, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego.

District 77 Rep. Marisa Marquez faces El Paso attorney Lyda Ness-Garcia.

District 75 Rep. Mary Gonzalez is being challenged by Rey Sepulveda, president of the Fabens school board.

And District 79 Rep. Joe Pickett, the dean of the El Paso delegation, faces Chuck Peartree.

I have no brief for Reps. Marquez or Naomi Gonzalez; they can explain their support of Dee Margo over Joe Moody (who did not get a primary challenger) to the voters. Pickett has been the Transportation Committee chair and has some juice, but he also voted for HB2; if he gets beaten up about that in his primary, I’ll shed no tears. The one legislator in that group I do care about is Rep. Mary Gonzalez, who is a force for good and deserves to be supported for re-election.

I mentioned yesterday that Rep. Marc Veasey avoided a rematch in CD33 with Domingo Garcia. I thought at the time that meant he was unopposed in the primary, but apparently not.

Several local members of Congress drew opponents as well.

U.S. representative, District 6: Republican Joe Barton (i), Frank Kuchar; Democrat David Edwin Cozad.

U.S. representative, District 12: Republican Kay Granger (i); Democrat Mark Greene

U.S. representative, District 24: Republican Kenny Marchant (i); Democrat Patrick McGehearty

U.S. representative, District 25: Republican Roger Williams (i); Democrats Stuart Gourd, Marco Montoya

U.S. representative, District 26: Republicans Michael Burgess (i), Joel A. Krause, Divenchy Watrous

U.S. representative, District 33: Democrats Marc Veasey (i), Thomas Carl Sanchez

There had been much speculation about whether former state Rep. Domingo Garcia, D-Dallas, would challenge Veasey for the 33rd Congressional District, setting up a rematch of last year’s hotly contested primary race. But Garcia put out a statement late Monday that he would not enter the race.

“I am truly humbled by the encouragement and support I have received to run for congress this year but after careful consideration I have decided against a run for congress in 2014,” he said. “I look forward to helping turning Texas blue and will continue to work to register and turn out more voters. I look forward to continuing to serve the community in one capacity or another.”

Democratic officials said Monday that little is known about Veasey’s challenger, Sanchez of Colleyville, other than that he is an attorney.

I feel reasonably confident that Rep. Veasey will win, but as always it’s best to not take anything for granted.

On the Republican side, Burka has a couple of observations. Number One:

Two trends are evident in this year’s campaign. One is that this is not necessarily shaping up as a tea party year. There are a lot of Main Street Republicans running for the House of Representatives — business people and school district leaders. Some of the candidates backed by Michael Quinn Sullivan might find themselves on the losing end of races. Matt Schaefer faces a strong opponent in Tyler. The same is true for Jonathan Stickland, whose opponent in Bedford is a popular former coach and educator.

That would be fine by me, but see my earlier comment about underestimating the crazy. Numero Dos:

The most significant late filings in the Republican primary:

(1) Steve Stockman vs. John Cornyn (U.S. Senator)

(2) Robert Talton vs. Nathan Hecht (Chief Justice, Texas Supreme Court)

(3) Matt Beebe vs. Joe Straus (House District 121)

(4) John Ratcliffe v. Ralph Hall (U.S. House District 4)

(5) Mike Canon vs. Kel Seliger (Texas Senate District 31)

Stockman is about as far-right as far-right can get in this state. Cornyn can swamp him with money, but the tea party will be out in force against Cornyn.

Talton is a conservative trial lawyer who is famous for once having stationed a DPS officer outside his door to prevent gays from entering his office. He is a threat to Hecht (the stationing of the DPS officer outside his door notwithstanding).

Talton’s most recent foray into elections was last year as the GOP candidate for Harris County Attorney. He won that primary but lost the general, and slightly underperformed his peers. Hecht of course is deeply unethical. The winner of that race faces Bill Moody in the general.

There’s still a lot to process from the candidate filings. I don’t have a full picture yet of everything, and I suspect there are still some unexpected stories to tell. I’m already thinking about what interviews I want to do for March; with the primary back to its normal spot on the calendar next year, there isn’t much time to plan. What caught you by surprise this filing period?

Final filings: We have a statewide Democrat

Boy, I didn’t see this coming.

Judge Larry Meyers

Judge Larry Meyers

Longtime Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Lawrence “Larry” Meyers announced Monday that he is leaving the Republican Party to run as a Democrat for the Texas Supreme Court.

Meyers, of Fort Worth, filed Monday on the last day of filing to seek Place 6 on the Supreme Court, currently held by Jeff Brown.

“I am thrilled to welcome Judge Meyers to the Texas Democratic Party,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. “I am even more excited to know that Judge Meyers doesn’t stand alone. Every day, I hear from real voters that our party represents the strongest path forward for our state.

“Texas is changing and voters will continue ot reject a Republican Party more focused on ideology than ideas.”

Meyers’ party switch makes him the first statewide Democratic officeholder since 1998.

What’s more, since his term on the CCA isn’t up until 2016, no matter what happens in that race he’ll be on the bench at least until then. It’s a little strange having a criminal court judge running for a civil court, but that’s far from the strangest thing that’s happened this cycle. Meyers announced a challenge to Sharon Keller in the GOP primary in 2012 despite having previously been an ally of hers, but as far as I can tell he didn’t actually go through with it; the SOS page for the 2012 GOP primary shows her as unopposed. In any event, welcome to the party, Judge Meyers. Best of luck in your election.

That was the first surprise of the day but it wasn’t the last and may not have been the biggest, for next came this.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Friendswood, has filed to run against U.S. Sen. John Cornyn in the March GOP primary, joining at least eight other hopefuls vying for the senior senator’s seat, according to a spokesman with the Republican Party of Texas.

Stockman, who had filed for re-election in Congressional District 36, had to withdraw from that race to seek Cornyn’s seat.

In an interview with the website WND, Stockman said he was running because he was “extremely disappointed in the way [Cornyn] treated his fellow congressmen and broke the 11th commandment and undermined Ted Cruz’s fight to stop Obamacare.”

There’s crazy, there’s bat$#!+ crazy, and then there’s Steve Stockman, who does a triple lutz barrel roll with a half-gainer but still sticks the landing. Take that, Louie Gohmert!

GOP political consultant Matt Mackowiak said Stockman faces an uphill battle, from recent investigations into his political and fundraising operation to Cornyn’s “huge bankroll.”

“Now we will find out if Sen. Cornyn is truly vulnerable, which I have doubted,” Mackowiak said, adding, “I predict that not one member of the congressional delegation will support Stockman. Ultimately, he will need outside groups to spend, and that is the most important unknown right now.”

All I can say is that so far, no one has gone broke underestimating the insanity of Republican primary voters. I suppose there’s a first time for everything. In the meantime, I join with PDiddie, Texpatriate, Juanita, and BOR in marveling at the spectacle.

Stockman’s change in office means that he won’t be running for CD36, which means there’s at least a chance Congress could be a tiny bit less wacko in 2015. There are three other Republicans running, and one Democrat.

Meanwhile, Michael Cole has had his eye on the heavily-Republican district since 2012, when he ran as a libertarian. He got about 6,000 votes in that election.

Now Cole, a 38 year old teacher from Orange, Texas, is running again as a Democrat. He says he has a campaign team in place, has been crisscrossing the district, and is about to file his first report on fundraising to the Federal Elections Commission. He said he’d focus on getting things done and charged outgoing Stockman with wasting time on politics.

“I can listen to what my constituents want instead of just showboating against Barack Obama,” he said, noting that his major focus would be on middle class job growth.

The change in candidates doesn’t change the fact that this is a 70% GOP district. But still, a Republican and a Libertarian both turning Democrat to run next year? Not a bad day if you ask me.

Anyway. Here’s the TDP list, which will not include people that filed at their county offices, and the Harris County GOP list; I’ve put the HCDP list beneath the fold, since the updated version of it isn’t online just yet. Stace notes the contested primaries of interest in Harris County, but here are a few other highlights:

– In addition to Larry Meyers, the Dems have two other Supreme Court candidates (Bill Moody and Gina Benavides, who is a Justice on the 13th Court of Appeals) and one CCA candidate (John Granberg for Place 3). Not a full slate, but not too bad. According to a TDP press release, Granberg is an attorney from El Paso (as is Moody, who is a District Court judge) and Benavides is from McAllen.

– Kinky Friedman has a second opponent for Ag Commissioner, Hugh Asa Fitzsimons III. Either the Dems got used to the idea of Friedman on the ballot or they failed utterly to find an opponent for him that isn’t some dude. I never thought I’d say this, but as things stand today I’d vote for Kinky.

– Another press release from the TDP makes a nice-sounding claim:

Today, the Texas Democratic Party announced its slate of candidates for 2014. Texas Democrats are fielding more candidates for statewide office in this election cycle than any time since 2002.

In addition to the statewide slate, the party devoted significant time to recruiting for down ballot races, and announced challengers in State Senate districts 10 and 17, and a full slate of candidates to the State Board of Education.

The party spent significant time recruiting Justices of the Peace, County Constables, County Judges, County Commissioners and others in places like Lubbock, Wichita Falls, San Angelo and across Texas.

I like the look of that. I wish they had more information in that release, but it’s an encouraging sign regardless.

– There will not be a rematch in CD33 between Rep. Marc Veasey and Domingo Garcia. As a fan of Rep. Veasey, I’m glad to hear that.

– Rep. Harold Dutton did file for re-election in HD142. Some people just can’t be rushed, I guess. Rep. Carol Alvarado joined Rep. Alma Allen in drawing a primary challenger, as Susan Delgado filed at the last minute in HD145. I’ll be voting for Rep. Alvarado, thanks. Oh, and the GOP did find a challenger for HD144 – Gilbert Pena, who lost in the primary for that district in 2012.

– Dems did not get candidates foe each local judicial race, but there are a few contested judicial primaries. Yes, that’s a little frustrating, but people will run where they want to run.

– No one is running against Commissioner Jack Morman, and no one else is running for County Judge. Alas. Ann Harris Bennett has an opponent for County Clerk, Gayle Mitchell, who filed a finance report in July but has been quiet since.

– Possibly the biggest surprise locally is that outgoing CM Melissa Noriega filed for HCDE At Large Position 7, making that a three way race with Traci Jensen and Lily Leal. I will have more on that later.

I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to say about many of these races soon. Here’s the Chron story for now, which doesn’t add anything I didn’t already have here. What are your thoughts about the lineups?

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Tactics are nice, but turnout is key

The main thing I learned in this story about Wendy Davis’ national connections is that at least one person in the state gets what she will really need to win.

Marc Veasey

Marc Veasey

“I’m going back home to Texas and walking door to door,” said Brian Stansbury, a lawyer from Texas who has lived in Washington for more than a decade. “I will wear out a couple of shoes in Texas.”

Stansbury and other Democrats helped Bill White against Rick Perry in the 2010 race for governor. He says Davis has a better shot.

“Wendy will have a lot more money from D.C. and nationwide than Bill White,” he said.

Davis has a fundraising goal of $40 million. She said most of that total should come from inside Texas.

Stansbury is part of a statewide network called New Leaders Texas. Many of its members dream of returning to a blue Texas, perhaps with Davis as governor.

U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, has known Davis since her days on the Fort Worth City Council.

In 2012, when his election to Congress was sealed with a Democratic runoff victory against former state Rep. Domingo Garcia, Veasey ran an aggressive general election campaign against a long-shot GOP candidate in order to help turn out voters to boost Davis’ Senate re-election bid.

He says Texas Democrats, inside and outside the state, must work as a team.

“I’m going to do everything I can to help Wendy become the next governor of Texas,” Veasey said.

Rep. Veasey gets it. The thing about an off-year race is that turnout levels are much more variable. Just compare the Republican vote totals in 2006 and 2010 to see what I mean. Democrats have a lot of room to bring up their base level of turnout for the off-year races, and it starts by going where the Democrats are and making sure they vote this year as if it were a Presidential year. The more elected officials like Rep. Veasey that serve in deep blue districts but campaign as if their own elections depended on it, the better.

I included the fundraising bit as a point of reference, if nothing else. Forty million is what the pundits keep saying Davis needs to raise, so it must be true. I think that total is overkill given her already-high name ID, but it never hurts to be ambitious. That said, if there’s $40 million to be raised, I’d rather Wendy got $25 million of it, with $15 million going to Sen. Leticia Van de Putte in the Lite Gov slot. I personally think there’s more bang to be had with that distribution of the bucks. Either way, we need everyone on board to get out the vote. This has to be an off-year in name only. We need everyone in the game.

Third lawsuit filed against the voter ID law

The more, the merrier.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Two groups representing minority voters and officeholders sued to block the state’s new Voter ID law, which will be used for the first time in a statewide Texas election this November — barring intervention by a court.

The new law requires voters to show an approved photo identification card when they vote. Its requirements “have a discriminatory effect … and were enacted with a racially discriminatory purpose,” according to the lawsuit filed against the state by the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches and the Texas House’s Mexican American Legislative Caucus.

[…]

In their suit, the groups said the new law “disproportionately prevent Latino and African-American citizens in Texas from voting in person and, in the totality of the circumstances, deny Latino and African American citizens an equal opportunity to participate in the political process and were enacted for that purpose.”

The suit was filed in federal court in Corpus Christi, where two similar cases are set for hearings later this month: one filed in June by a group including U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth, and another by the U.S. Department of Justice, filed in August. Dallas County joined the Veasey lawsuit last month.

A copy of the suit is here, a scorecard of who’s suing for what is here, and a press statement from MALC is beneath the fold. I presume all these lawsuits will eventually be joined – a motion to do exactly that has already been filed – but the more resources going into fighting this terrible law, the better. Now we just need someone to file for a TRO to keep it from being enforced before the litigation concludes. I’m hoping that happens before November 5.

(more…)

Dallas County to sue state over voter ID

The shoe is on the other foot.

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Still the only voter ID anyone should need

Democratic Dallas County commissioners narrowly agreed [Tuesday] afternoon to join a lawsuit against Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry over state efforts to enforce a controversial voter identification law.

Democratic Commissioner Elba Garcia stepped out of the partisan fray inextricably linked to the national debate on voter ID laws and joined Republican colleague Mike Cantrell in voting against the move. County Judge Clay Jenkins and commissioners Theresa Daniel and John Wiley Price, all Democrats, votes for the measure.

Supporters of suing, including District Attorney Craig Watkins, said the move is an attempt to protect voters’ rights. An estimated 220,000 county voters lack the identification the law would require.

Cantrell, the lone Republican commissioner, accused his colleagues of using county funds to push a partisan agenda. Garcia criticized the lack of detailed information on what joining the suit will cost.

Here’s a fuller story in the DMN that adds a few more details.

Missing from the vote at Tuesday’s Commissioners Court meeting was a clear idea of just how much the county’s direct involvement will cost taxpayers.

That’s largely because commissioners haven’t been told what expenses will need to be covered — or how much of those costs will be paid by the lawsuit’s existing plaintiffs. Before the vote, Cantrell failed to get attorney Chad Dunn to provide ballpark figures of the suit’s total cost or each plaintiff’s likely contribution.

That ambiguity prompted Garcia’s opposition. Garcia said she wanted more time to figure out how much the county could end up paying Dunn’s firm. She said officials were told they had to vote Tuesday so that the state could be served with legal papers in the case before a hearing scheduled for next month.

Garcia said that state leaders still hadn’t been served with the initial complaint from the lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in June.

“When I ask for one week and I’m told it’s now or never, you won’t be a part of it, I take that as my questions are not important,” Garcia said.

When asked why attorneys couldn’t request that the September hearing be moved to allow both sides more time to prepare, Jenkins said there is no guarantee such a request would be granted.

As she did on the campaign trail last year, Daniel said managing the county’s budget is the primary job of commissioners. But she added Tuesday that fighting the state is the “right thing to do” because Texas is using taxpayer money to disenfranchise voters.

“That’s wrong, but that’s on somebody else’s plate,” she said.

According to this DMN story from before the vote, the commissioners voted to hire a law firm to join a federal lawsuit. That would be the Veasey lawsuit, which of course is now enmeshed with the Justice Department lawsuit. I’m honestly not sure what the practical effect of this will be, but hey, the more the merrier. The question about how much this will cost is a fair one, and if it turns out to be a bigger number than expected it will be a political issue for County Judge Clay Jenkins and DA Craig Watkins, both of whom are up for re-election next year. As for the complaint about pushing a partisan agenda, well, tell it to Greg Abbott. A statement from the Dallas County Democratic Party is beneath the fold, and BOR, The Trib, and Trail Blazers have more.

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Not so fast on voter ID enforcement

Oops.

Still not Greg Abbott

Top Texas leaders acted without legal authority when they claimed to be moving forward with implementing the state’s controversial voter ID law, a veteran Supreme Court watcher said today.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Secretary of State John Steen both said after the Supreme Court struck down the core of the country’s voting rights law Tuesday that the state would begin enforcing laws requiring photo identification for voters.

But Lyle Denniston, a legal scholar who has covered the Supreme Court for 55 years, said the Texas voter ID law cannot take effect immediately.

“This is one of the dumbest statements I’ve heard from an attorney general in a long time,” Denniston, a contributor to the widely read SCOTUSBlog, said.

The state’s voter ID law — as well as any new redistricting plan — cannot be unilaterally implemented, he said.

“[Abbott] has a judgment against him, and that judgment has to be removed before the law can be enforced,” Denniston said. “He cannot do anything while its pending before the Supreme Court unless he withdraws his own petition, and he’s obviously not going to do that.”

[…]

In wake of [the SCOTUS Voting Rights Act] ruling, several Texas officials pledged enforce the voter ID bill, which a federal court barred the state from enforcing last August.

But Denniston said that case was not immediately settled Tuesday, because the court struck down a section of the law unrelated to the Texas challenge. He called the attorney general “legally ignorant” for thinking he could advance the laws without the court’s ruling.

Well, we already knew that Greg Abbott’s legal skills were lacking. But that sort of thing never stopped a guy like him. I said when the ruling came down that there would be a lawsuit filed against Texas’ voter ID law. I was right.

Congressman Marc Veasey and other African-American and Hispanic plaintiffs filed a lawsuit this morning in federal court in Corpus Christi to bar the enforcement of Texas’ voter ID law.

Last year, a three-judge panel in Washington had declined to preclear the law under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and, as a result, the law could not be enforced.

With yesterday’s Shelby Co. decision, however, the state became free to begin to take the steps that would be necessary for it to be in a legal position to enforce the law.

The new suit alleges, though, that even if section 5 no longer bars enforcement of the law, the law’s discriminatory effect on minority voters violates section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and that the Texas Legislature enacted the law with a discriminatory purpose in violation of the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution.

The suit also makes a claim that the law violates the Constitution’s 1st amendment by inhibiting free speech and meaningful political association.

The papers asked to the court to issue preliminary and permanent injunctions barred the law’s enforcement.

Rep. Veasey, of course, was one of the intervenors in both the redistricting and voter ID preclearance lawsuits, so I’m sure he’s well prepared for this. Don’t be surprised if this winds up back before the Supreme Court again some day. Unfair Park has more.

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.

On Latinos not winning Latino Congressional districts

I have a problem with this analysis by Nathan Gonzales, at least as it pertains to the three Texas districts included.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett

Even though a record number of Latinos are serving in the 113th Congress, Hispanic candidates are significantly underperforming in heavily Hispanic districts, particularly compared to other minority groups.

Nationwide, just 41 percent of congressional districts (24 of 58) with a Hispanic voting age population (VAP) of at least 30 percent are represented by a Hispanic member of Congress. In comparison, 72 percent of districts (32 of 44) with a black VAP of at least 30 percent are represented by a black member.

Why can’t Latinos get elected to Latino congressional districts?

[…]

In Texas’ 33rd, party leaders supported African-American state Rep. Marc Veasey over former state Rep. Domingo Garcia in a Dallas-area district that is 61 Hispanic and just 17 percent black. It helped that black voters outnumbered Latino voters in the primary, runoff, and general elections, according to analysis by the Lone Star Project. In Texas’ 34th, party leaders supported longtime Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D), even though his newly-drawn district is 59 percent Hispanic.

Another challenge is turnout. As the race in Texas 33 showed, the Hispanic percentage of a district’s population can overstate the strength of the Latino electorate, because Latinos don’t vote in the same numbers as other minority groups. In some cases, savvy Latino candidates don’t even run because they know the opportunity isn’t as good as it looks on paper.

[…]

But even when Hispanics dominate a district, sometimes it isn’t enough to secure a Latino victory. Nine districts with over 50 percent Latino VAP are represented by non-Latinos. Just two districts with a black VAP of at least 50 percent are represented by non-black Members.

For example, Texas’ 16th District is now represented by Beto O’Rourke after he defeated longtime Rep. Silvestre Reyes in the Democratic primary last year, even though the seat is 78 Hispanic.

Until Latino voters get more organized and start voting with more frequency, simply citing the population figures of a district can lead to misleading analysis.

Yes it can, and that leads to a second problem I have with this article, but first things first. The problem that I said I have with this is that nowhere does Gonzales take the individual candidates into account when discussing the outcomes in Texas. I’ve discussed two of these races before, so I’m going to quote myself. Here’s what I said about Rep. Doggett’s victory, which by the way was in CD35, not CD34.

The main reason for [Sylvia] Romo’s defeat is that she was up against a very strong opponent. It wasn’t just that Rep. Doggett had name ID and a ton of money, it was also that he had a long record of doing things that Democratic voters tend to like. Though he had to move to run in CD35, he was generally perceived – or at least generally portrayed – as the incumbent, and the first rule of beating an incumbent is that there has to be a good reason to fire that incumbent. Doggett’s voting record has no obvious black marks on it – none that Romo articulated, anyway – and there were no issues of personal behavior to exploit. Having interviewed Romo, I agree that she’s a perfectly well qualified candidate and I think she’d have made a perfectly fine member of Congress, but I don’t think she ever adequately answered the question why voters should choose to replace a perfectly fine sitting Congressperson with seniority, a good record, and a history of making Republicans mad enough to try twice to kill him off via redistricting.

Doggett faced the same challenge in 2004 when Republicans drew him into a district that contained large swaths of South Texas. As was the case last year, he faced off against an established Latina elected official from the new district turf, and he won easily. You’re not going to beat Lloyd Doggett without a good reason to beat Lloyd Doggett.

And here is what I said about O’Rourke versus Reyes in CD16:

I’m pretty sure none of the people involved in redistricting, including the litigants, foresaw [the possibility of Reyes losing to O’Rourke] though at least one blogger did. But Rep. Reyes didn’t lose because the new map made CD16 more hostile to Latinos and more amenable to Anglos. Rep. Reyes had some baggage, O’Rourke ran a strong campaign, and he had some help from a third party. These things happen. Perhaps from here O’Rourke does a good job and becomes an entrenched incumbent, or he sees his star rise and takes a crack at statewide office in a few years, or he himself gets challenged by an ambitious pol in 2014, presumably a Latino, and loses. Point being, Latino voters made the choice here, and they will continue to be able to do so.

I think Rep. Reyes’ baggage was a big factor here, but you have to give credit to Rep. O’Rourke for running a strong race and giving the voters a reason to fire the incumbent and install him instead. I won’t be surprised if Rep. O’Rourke is challenged by a Latino in the 2014 primary, just as Rep. Gene Green was challenged in 1994 and 1996 in the heavily Latino CD29 after winning it in 1992. CD16 is still a district drawn for a Latino, after all. If Rep. O’Rourke does a good job he might be able to have a career like Rep. Green, who hasn’t faced a primary challenge since 1996. If not, he’ll be one and done if a better Latino candidate comes around to run against him.

As for CD33, it’s a similar story to CD16. Rep. Marc Veasey was a compelling candidate whose time in the Texas Legislature was marked by strong advocacy for progressive causes. Former State Rep. Domingo Garcia had a decent record in the Lege when he was there, but it had been awhile and he had his share of baggage as well. He had a reputation for divisiveness and was far from universally beloved among Latino politicos – just look at the large number of Latino State Reps that endorsed Veasey. If African-American turnout in the primary runoff was higher than Latino turnout despite the numerical advantage for Latinos, that didn’t happen by magic.

The other problem I had with Gonzales’ article comes from this paragraph:

Five out of six congressional districts that have both Hispanic and black populations of at least 30 percent each are represented by black Members, including Florida’s 24th and Texas’ 9th, 18th, and 30th districts.

The fallacy of that statement, which Gonzales himself alludes to in his concluding statement, which I quoted above, can be summed up by this document. Here are the Citizen Voting Age Populations (CVAPs) for the three Texas districts, estimated from the 2007-2011 American Community Survey:

CD09 – 50.6% African-American, 19.5% white, 19.2% Hispanic
CD18 – 49.2% African-American, 25.0% white, 20.7% Hispanic
CD30 – 53.5% African-American, 25.5% white, 18.1% Hispanic

You tell me what kind of person you’d expect to win in these districts. Total population is far less relevant than CVAP is. Gonzales knows this, and he should have known better. Via NewsTaco.