Federal court rules Texas GOP purposely discriminated in redistricting

Posted in Around The State, Redistricting, Right Wing Lies, The Lege at 10:06 pm by wcnews

Via Talking Points Memo, Hispanic Outreach Fail.

Federal judicial panel blocks Texas Republicans’ redistricting plan for being purposelydiscriminatory.

To put a sharper point on this, most of the cases — the vast majority even — brought under the Voting Rights Act in the last half century have involved redistricting maps that have a discriminatory “effect.” It’s much less common for the courts to find discriminatory “intent.” But that’s what the courts found here, in the second largest state in the country, with a large and rapidly growing Hispanic population, whose Republican governor was running for president.

So it’s a big deal.

The Texas GOP drew redistricting maps that discriminated against Hispanic voters, on purpose!

The Texas GOP has wasted time, money, postponed the primaries and cost David Dewhurst a US Senate seat all to wind up in the same place we were in December 2011, with their illegally drawn redistricting maps tossed into the dust bin of history.

Texas Tribune has more with plenty of reaction from elected officials of both parties, Court: Texas Political Maps Don’t Protect Minority Vote.

Texas lawmakers didn’t comply with the Voting Rights Act when they drew new maps for congressional, state Senate and state House districts, a federal court in Washington, D.C., ruled Tuesday.

“Texas … seeks from this court a declaratory judgement that its redistricting plans will neither have ‘the purpose nor will have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color, or [language minority group]”, the judges wrote. “We conclude that Texas has failed to show that any of the redistricting plans merits preclearance.”

Texas Redistricting answers the burning question, So what happens now?

The big question following today’s Texas redistricting opinion is ‘what happens now?’

At the moment, that’s a bit unclear. Waiting for the redistricting opinion had become a bit like waiting for Godot - so much so that many folks had stopped thinking about redistricting. Most people, in fact, were expecting a ruling on Texas’ voter ID law to come first. And with a 154 pages of opinion and dissent, folks are still digesting the opinion and looking at options.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has taken the position that the opinion will not affect the November election, which he says will proceed on the interim maps put into place back in February.

On the other hand, it is certainly possible to see a move to adjust those interim maps in the San Antonio court. For example, CD-23 arguably could be restored to its full benchmark configuration fairly easily. Similar arguments might also be made with respect to HD 117 and 149, which are wholly contained in their respective counties (to the extent redistricting plaintiffs think that not enough changes were made to those districts in the interim maps).

Other changes would seem harder. But with control of Congress potentially on the line, lots of people are going to be looking at the opinion closely over the next few days.

Changes for this year - at least conceptually - are not out of the question. In 1996, for example, the three-judge panel ordered jungle primaries in a number of congressional districts which were held on the date of the November election, with a runoff a month later.

As for an appeal, Attorney General Abbott has already said that he will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could set the case for oral argument as early as this fall and likely would raise issues about the constitutionality of section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

Stay tuned. Things are getting interesting again.

Let’s hope Voter ID is close behind.

[UPDATE]: MALDEF statement on the ruling.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Earlier today, a three-judge federal panel issued a ruling in Texas v. United States denying preclearance under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act for three Texas statewide redistricting plans. MALDEF intervened on behalf of Latino voters to challenge the congressional and state House redistricting plans on the grounds that they that discriminated against Latino voters. Because Texas is a covered jurisdiction under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Attorney General or a three-judge panel must approve, or “preclear,” any redistricting plan before it can take effect. Texas sought a judgment from the court that its redistricting plans are not discriminatory and could be put into effect. Today’s decision denies preclearance and prevents Texas from implementing the maps, which were enacted in the 2011 legislative session.

In its ruling, the three-judge panel found that: the Congressional Plan reduces Latino voting strength and was enacted with discriminatory racial intent; the State House Plan reduces minority voting strength; and the State Senate Plan was enacted with discriminatory racial intent.

Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel, stated, “The intransigent refusal of Texas officials to comply with the Voting Rights Act (VRA), particularly with regard to the state’s rapidly-growing Latino population, has once again resulted in the possibility that Texas will be grappling with congressional and legislative redistricting well into the decade. Texas should abandon this obstreperous path and work to quickly adopt maps that comply with all sections of the VRA.”

MALDEF Vice President of Litigation Nina Perales, added, “Today’s decision is yet another nail in the coffin of the redistricting plans enacted by the Texas Legislature. The State should stop wasting money on further litigation and focus on securing fair election maps for all Texans.”

In this case, MALDEF represented the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, a statewide coalition of Latino organizations including Southwest Voter Registration Education Project (SVREP), HOPE, the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas (MABA-TX), William C. Velasquez Institute (WCVI), Southwest Workers Union and NOMAR.

Here’s a round up of media reaction to the ruling, Texas Redistricting Story Roundup.


Interim redistricting maps released - Primary likely on May 29th

Posted in 2012 Primary, Around The State, Redistricting at 11:12 am by wcnews

On Tuesday the San Antonio court released it’s latest version of interim maps for Texas. Here’s the link to the maps via TxRedistricing.

Order on congressional map (C235)
Order on state house map (H309)
Order on state senate map (S172)

It looks like the San Antonio court to the path of least resistance. It’s hard to argue with Burka that the Texas GOP got what they wanted, after getting the SCOTUS ruling, R’s steamroll D’s in House redistricting.

The bottom line is that the interim House map largely resembles the version passed by the Legislature. This was a foregone conclusion when the Supreme Court told the San Antonio Court it had overreached. The Democrats performed poorly in the negotiations. It was a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth. There were multiple groups of plaintiffs and each of them had their own sets of concerns. Abbott won the day when he cut a deal with national LULAC and MALDEF early in the negotiations. He split the Democrats and they never recovered. An attorney for the Democrats told me that they might end up with 7 to 8 seats over the original House plan. If so, the split in the House next year would look something like 93/94 R to 56/57 D, and many of the Republican seats are solid.

All the fighting and delays helped the GOP get much better maps then the original “interim” maps. Anyone still holding out hope for things to change again, should hope for a quick ruling from the DC court on preclearance, Q&A on the new interim maps.

Do the new interim maps need to be precleared under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act?

Yes. Since the maps reflect state policy choices, they will need to be submitted for review either to the Justice Department or to the three-judge panel in Washington that tried the preclearance case.

Tim Mellett of the Justice Department said at hearings two weeks ago that DOJ is prepared to examine the maps under its expedited review process and that the process could be concluded in time for a May 29 primary.

The assumption of most observers is that the state will submit the maps to DOJ rather than the three-judge panel in Washington. However, the decision ultimately will be Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s call.

Regardless, expect candidate filing and election preparations to go forward, pending preclearance.

Of course, we could be back in court if, for some reason, DOJ - or the DC court - denies preclearance.

Could a party appeal the interim maps?

Yes, dissatisfied parties (ranging from minority groups to Congressman Joe Barton) could ask the Supreme Court to review the maps and the court’s explanation for doing what it did.

However, unless the Supreme Court grants a stay and/or sets the appeal on an expedited schedule, election would go forward using the interim maps - assuming, of course, that the maps are precleared.

A stay request to the Supreme Court likely would be referred to the court as a whole to consider. If that happens, it would take five justices to grant a stay.

Could the map process be reopened after the D.C. court issues its ruling in the preclearance trial?

Yes, particularly if the D.C. court’s opinion differs materially from where the San Antonio court ended up in its analysis of section 5 issues (e.g., if the D.C. court decides that CD-25 is a protected district).

But the San Antonio court would have to decide whether any issues raised by the D.C. court’s opinion are significant enough to warrant reopening the process or whether to simply order the election to proceed using the interim maps for the 2012 cycle.

What the court does is likely to be driven not only by what the D.C. court’s opinion says but by when the decision comes out.

The D.C. court said back in early February that it did not expect to rule for “at least 30 days,” but it did not give a definitive date. If the court’s ruling comes out shortly (think: Friday or early next week), it would be possible to adjust maps and have a June 26 primary if not a May primary.

But if revised maps can’t be done by March 31, then a June 26 primary would be hard, if not impossible, to accomplish.

And a primary any later would run into conflicts with the parties’ national convention schedule and perhaps more critically would push runoffs into late September/early October.

In that case, the San Antonio court very well could chose to redraw the maps but make them effective in 2014 instead of 2012.

And this is the calendar for the primary which looks like it will be on May 29th.

  • The filing period would reopen Friday, March 2, and close a week later on Friday, March 9 at 6 p.m.
  • Ballot order draws would need to occur in each county on or before March 12, 2012.
  • Precinct boundaries would need to be redrawn by or before March 20, 2012.
  • Military and overseas mail ballots would need to be mailed by April 14, 2012.
  • New voter registration certificates would need to be issued by April 25, 2012.
  • The primary runoff would be July 31, 2012.

As for Williamson County little has changed, from the maps passed last year by the legislature. The only change seems to be the number to the new state House district - it was 149 and it is now 136.

For more round up and commentary on the new redistricting maps:
Off the Kuff - We have maps.
Texas Redistricting - Press round up: The interim maps.


State Democratic Executive Committee approves 2012 Delegate Selection Plan

Posted in 2012 Primary, Democratic Events, Election 2012, Good Stuff, Presidential Election, Redistricting, Take Action, Williamson County at 9:42 pm by dembones

The members of the Texas Democratic Party Executive Committee held an emergency meeting this evening and approved their Delegate Selection Plan for 2012. The famous “Texas Two-Step” hybrid primary/caucus process for selecting our delegates to the Democratic National Convention will be set aside this year, and temporarily replaced with a two-tiered convention (caucus).

The first series of conventions will be held April 21, 2012, at a location and time to be announced by each county political party. All voters who affiliate with a political party, generally by signing an Oath, are eligible to attend the county conventions. The convention delegates will debate and adopt a slate of delegates who will represent the county at the State Democratic Convention, to be held June 8-9, in Houston. According to the Delegate Selection Plan, Williamson County will be able to send 124 delegates and 124 alternates to the state convention. (Two ex-officio delegates will join the delegation, making the total voting strength of Williamson County at the State Convention 126.)

Up to 7,021 delegates will be credentialed at the State Democratic Convention. They will adopt a slate of 288 delegates and 22 alternates who will attend the Democratic National Convention, to be held September 3-6, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Senatorial District 5, which includes Williamson County, will meet in a separate caucus at the state convention to select six national delegates. These six delegates will be apportioned according to the aggregation of the poll of Presidential preference taken at the district’s 10 county conventions. The Delegate Selection Plan calls for a Presidential candidate to meet a 15% minimum in order to receive delegates.

The move today by the state Democratic party is a response to a San Antonio federal court order issued yesterday. In that order, a three-judge panel provided for state political parties to make adjustments to their rules so that state conventions can be held in June, independent of results of primaries whose results won’t be available in time.

The court yesterday also issued maps to be used for the 2012 elections in State Representative, State Senatorial and United States Congressional districts. Those maps hew closely to the lines drawn by the 82nd Legislature, and which have thus far been unable to earn pre-clearance from the United States Department of Justice, as required under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Rather than submit the maps to the Department of Justice, the State of Texas asked a D. C. circuit court for pre-clearance. A trial was held in January and February, but the court has not issued a ruling. A ruling has become increasingly unlikely in time to allow the state parties to hold their conventions in June, necessitating tonight’s action.

The size of venue required for state conventions limits the locations where they can be held, and makes the cost of moving unrealistic. Therefore, the San Antonio court has allowed the state parties to draw up plans that will allow them to select their national delegations without the results of a Presidential Primary to determine the Presidential preferences of their delegates. Instead, state parties will use a poll of convention attendees to determine the apportionment.

Credentials for attendance to the Democratic state convention will be issued to delegates elected at county and senatorial district conventions to be held April 21, 2012. Counties entirely contained within a single Senatorial District will convene a single County Convention. Counties containing parts of more than one Senatorial district (i.e., Atascosa, Bexar, Brazoria, Collin, Dallas, Denton, Fort Bend, Galveston, Guadalupe, Harris, Hays, Hidalgo, Montgomery, Tarrant, Taylor, and Travis) will have a a Senatorial Convention for each portion of a Senatorial District within the county. Sometimes all the Senatorial District conventions within a county are held at one location, or they may be held separately.

Voters who want to attend a party’s County or Senatorial District conventions must be registered to vote in the County and reside in the District. They must affiliate with one political party, either by signing a candidate petition for a place on that party’s primary ballot, or providing an Oath of Affiliation to the County Chair.

The time and location of the County and Senatorial District conventions will be announced by each county party’s executive committee in the coming weeks. Notices will be posted in public spaces and in local media. Committees will be appointed to prepare for the convention, processing Credentials, accepting proposed Resolutions and Rules changes, and handling other logistical details. Funding for the county/SD conventions is provided entirely by the County political parties and their donors.

On April 21, when voters arrive at their convention, they will prove that they are registered to vote and reside within the county/district. They will sign an Oath of Affiliation that declares their party preference for 2012. A record of those oaths is provided to the county’s chief elections officer, where it will be recorded in the voter roll for any subsequent primary or primary runoff elections. A person who attempts to affiliate with more than one party, or who votes in a party’s primary or runoff election to which they are unaffiliated, will have violated Texas Election Code, and could be subject to prosecution under state law.

Once signed in, the county/SD convention attendee becomes a full voting delegate, and joins other delegates from their voting precinct. Last summer, Williamson County approved a new precinct map whose lines will correspond with the court-ordered maps. This plan divides Williamson into 88 voting precincts. Because this map has not been pre-cleared by Justice, it may be necessary for another court order to make it (or some other map) temporarily effective; however, in lieu of that, the county parties may have to revert to the 2010 map which divided Williamson into 102 precincts. Some of those lines may not match up with State House districts; however, that won’t impact the county convention. The precinct map will be used to divide the county convention attendees into groups. Those groups will have an opportunity to select one of their own to join the state delegation.

Voters would have received their voter registration cards in January, had an enacted map obtained pre-clearance in time. The cards sent to voters in January 2010 have expired, but the county retains your active voter registration. Those who were legally registered last year, remain registered so long as their residence or other legal information has not changed. Citizens 18 years or older who are eligible to vote may newly register or update their existing registration information until March 22, 2012.

In addition to other court actions, the fate of the newly enacted SB14 (VoterID Law) remains uncertain. Rather than take the new law to Justice for VRA pre-clearance, the State of Texas asked a circuit court in New Orleans to grant pre-clearance. When judges requested it, the State provided a list of 650,000 registered voters who would become ineligible to vote under SB14 because they lack the specific photo identification cards prescribed by the new law. The Circuit Court then asked the State to break down the list by race to determine whether the law has the effect of discriminating against a racial minority, providing a January deadline for response. When the State of Texas failed to respond before the deadline, the circuit court extended the deadline an additional 60 days.

If the State responds to the court’s request, pre-clearance would be granted if the data show that the effect of SB14 is not discriminatory. Because SB14 remains in legal limbo, existing Texas Election Code will determine how voters will identify themselves at the county and senatorial district conventions.

But because voters will presumably lack a valid voter registration card, they will be required to present some other form of identification to prove their voter registration status and residency. Those forms of identification include Texas Drivers License, utility bills, student IDs, Veterans Benefits cards, etc.


There’s still time

Posted in 2012 Primary, Around The State, Cronyism, Had Enough Yet?, Money In Politics, Public Schools, Redistricting, The Budget at 4:49 pm by wcnews

As we wait for the Texas primary to be set - and it’s looking more and more like the end of June - there’s still time for candidates to enter races. As the frustration mounts, in places like Hutto, over the state budget passed last session, there’s still time. As the political landscape changes, with Democratic voter enthusiasm rising as the GOP’s sags, there’s still time.

The redistricting mess created by the Texas GOP’s radical power-grab, which is causing the primary to be postponed, over and over again, could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. The candidate filing deadline for the 2012 Primary is still to be determined. And each day the landscape keeps looking better.

The Texas economy has improved over the last year, but those is power in Texas are not looking to reverse the extreme austerity budget passed last year. And those who had to sacrifice last session, (no no the wealthy!), public schools, teachers, school children and the least among us, will be asked to sacrifice again.

This week, Gov. Rick Perry and the House’s chief budget writer all but dismissed pleas by education advocates for an immediate special session to roll back some of the education cuts ordered last year.

With any changes to the current budget seemingly ruled out, experts say the key questions for next time boil down to: How low can you go? Will there be cuts on top of cuts, something not seen in Texas since the 1950s? And can local taxpayers in school districts, cities and counties be expected to keep picking up burdens the state sloughs off?

Perry, tea party-backed Republicans in the Legislature and conservative activists say putting state finances into an ever-tightening vise helps the state’s economy. They note that Texas leads all states in job creation and that people continue to flock to the state, which is picking up an additional four U.S. House seats as a result.

But Democrats and other critics say the policy of continual cuts courts disaster. They note that Texas began the past decade as one of the most frugal states. Since then, critics say GOP leaders’ policy of rejecting higher taxes and even cutting some taxes has allowed problems to fester. One example they use: Public health systems along the Texas-Mexico border are fraying, weakening defenses against outbreaks of tuberculosis and cholera.

With the cuts in education, they warn, there’s a growing prospect that the state’s workforce increasingly will consist of stunted, poorly educated young people.

“How we pay for schools is the state budget,” said Eva DeLuna Castro, a former analyst in the comptroller’s office who tracks fiscal matters for the progressive Center for Public Policy Priorities. “If we refuse every two years to tackle that, it’s not a good budget. It’s an abdication.”

But former House Appropriations Committee Chairman Talmadge Heflin, R-Houston, said keeping state government on restricted rations hasn’t set the state back because it fosters innovation.

“There’s still room to economize, to squeeze, to reduce the footprint,” said Heflin, a senior analyst with the free-market advocacy group the Texas Public Policy Foundation. “People like something about being in Texas or they wouldn’t keep coming. We’re not starving our education system to where we’re going to have an uneducated workforce.”

Former Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, a Republican who has denounced the school cuts, retorted: “Of course, Talmadge is one of those who would like to be able to drown the government in a bathtub.” [Emphasis added]

Ratliff said lawmakers since the 2009 session have slashed nearly $12 billion from state support of public schools, after considering enrollment growth and assuming a rate of 2 percent inflation per year.

“They’ve just got their head in the sand,” he said. “Hundreds of school districts statewide are going to their voters trying to get authority to raise property taxes so they can survive.”

Perry’s cronyism continues unabated, UnitedHealthCare wins giant Employees Retirement System contract.

The Perry gravy train is back on the track. UnitedHealthCare is a client of … Mike Toomey. What a remarkable coincidence.

And as far as campaign ethics violations are concerned, it looks like billionaires would much rather ask for forgiveness, and likely pay a pittance of a fine, then even think about obeying the law, Simmons PAC Treasurer Concedes Ethics Violation. More from TPJ.

“We can’t stop Simmons from polluting the political landscape with lawful campaign contributions, but even billionaires must be held accountable to democratic law,” said TPJ Director Craig McDonald. “If Simmons’ money passed through an illegal conduit, the 18 lawmakers who accepted it should return it or—better yet—give it to a deserving charity.

This week the DNC and TDP announced the Texas Truth Squad, Texas Democrats roll out 2012 team.

“I think people across the state are beginning to have buyer’s remorse about what happened in 2010,” said [Texas Democratic Party chairman Boyd] Richie. “When their children are in crowded classrooms, when their favorite teacher has been lost.”

Buyer’s remorse is right. And nothing will change if we don’t replace the people that are responsible. It’s not possible to be somebody with nobody. There’s still time.

Further Reading:
Texas Republicans: Their War on Women.
Say NO to underfunding and over-testing our students!
Starve Our Schools.
[UPDATE]: Paul Burka’s latest, When did Texas politics go completely nuts? There’s still time!


Resegregation via redistricting, the new Southern Strategy

Posted in Around The Nation, Around The State, Redistricting at 11:06 pm by wcnews

A great article from Ari Berman in The Nation, How the GOP Is Resegregating the South. It shows that the GOP’s plan is “to ultimately make the Democratic Party in the South be represented only by people of color”.

And it’s not just happening in North Carolina. In virtually every state in the South, at the Congressional and state level, Republicans—to protect and expand their gains in 2010—have increased the number of minority voters in majority-minority districts represented overwhelmingly by black Democrats while diluting the minority vote in swing or crossover districts held by white Democrats. “What’s uniform across the South is that Republicans are using race as a central basis in drawing districts for partisan advantage,” says Anita Earls, a prominent civil rights lawyer and executive director of the Durham-based Southern Coalition for Social Justice. “The bigger picture is to ultimately make the Democratic Party in the South be represented only by people of color.” The GOP’s long-term goal is to enshrine a system of racially polarized voting that will make it harder for Democrats to win races on local, state, federal and presidential levels. Four years after the election of Barack Obama, which offered the promise of a new day of postracial politics in states like North Carolina, Republicans are once again employing a Southern Strategy that would make Richard Nixon and Lee Atwater proud.

The same holds true at the state level, where only 10 percent of state legislative races can be considered a tossup. “If these maps hold, Republicans have a solid majority plus a cushion in the North Carolina House and Senate,” says J. Michael Bitzer, a professor of political science at Catawba College. “They don’t even need to win the swing districts.” North Carolina is now a political paradox: a presidential swing state with few swing districts. Republicans have turned what Bitzer calls an “aberration”—the Tea Party wave of 2010—“into the norm.”

Republicans accomplished this remarkable feat by drawing half the state’s black population of 2.2 million people, who vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, into a fifth of all legislative and Congressional districts. As a result, black voters are twice as likely as white voters to see their communities divided. “The new North Carolina legislative lines take the cake for the most grotesquely drawn districts I’ve ever seen,” says Jeff Wice, a Democratic redistricting lawyer in Washington.

According to data compiled by Bob Hall, executive director of Democracy North Carolina, precincts that are 90 percent white have a 3 percent chance of being split, and precincts that are 80 percent black have a 12 percent chance of being split, but precincts with a BVAP between 15 and 45 percent have a 40 percent chance of being split. Republicans “systematically moved [street] blocks in or out of their precincts on the basis of their race,” found Ted Arrington, a redistricting expert at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. “No other explanation is possible given the statistical data.” Such trends reflect not just a standard partisan gerrymander but an attack on the very idea of integration. In one example, Senate redistricting chair Bob Rucho admitted that Democratic State Senator Linda Garrou was drawn out of her plurality African-American district in Winston-Salem and into an overwhelmingly white Republican district simply because she is white. “The districts here take us back to a day of segregation that most of us thought we’d moved away from,” says State Senator Dan Blue Jr., who in the 1990s was the first African-American Speaker of the North Carolina House.

It’s a corporate backed effort to make sure the GOP is able to hold the gains they made in 2010. And North Carolina has it’s own version of Texas’ Bob Perry, his name is Art Pope.

Race has always been at the center of the Southern Strategy, though not always in ways you’d expect. In addition to pushing hot-button issues like busing and welfare to appeal to white voters, Southern Republicans formed an “unholy alliance” with black Southern Democrats when it came to redistricting. In the 1980s and ’90s, when white Democrats ruled the Statehouses, Republicans supported new majority-minority districts for black Democrats in select urban and rural areas in exchange for an increased GOP presence elsewhere, especially in fast-growing metropolitan suburbs. With Democrats grouped in fewer areas, Republicans found it easier to target white Democrats for extinction. Ben Ginsberg, a prominent GOP election lawyer, memorably termed the strategy “Project Ratfuck.”

Republicans prepared for the 2010 election with an eye toward replicating and expanding this strategy. The Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) unveiled the Redistricting Majority Project (REDMAP) in 2010 to target Statehouse races and put Republicans in charge of redistricting efforts following the election. Ed Gillespie, former chair of the Republican National Committee, became the group’s chair, while Chris Jankowski, a corporate lobbyist in Virginia, handled day-to-day operations. The group, which as a tax-exempt 527 could accept unlimited corporate donations, became the self-described “lead Republican Redistricting organization,” taking over many of the functions of the RNC. The RSLC attracted six- and seven-figure donations from the likes of the US Chamber of Commerce, tobacco companies Altria and Reynolds American, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the Karl Rove–founded American Crossroads and the American Justice Partnership, a conservative legal group that has been a partner of the American Legislative Exchange Council, a state-based conservative advocacy group. Funding from these corporate interests allowed the RSLC to spend $30 million on state races in 2010, including $1.2 million in North Carolina.

One of the group’s largest funders in North Carolina was Art Pope, a furniture magnate who has bankrolled much of the state’s conservative movement. Pope’s Variety Wholesalers gave $36,500 to the RSLC in July 2010. The RSLC then gave $1.25 million to a group called Real Jobs NC to run attack ads against Democrats. In total, Pope and Pope-supported entities spent $2.2 million on twenty-two state legislative races, winning eighteen. After the election, the GOP redistricting committees hired the RSLC’s redistricting expert, Tom Hofeller, to redraw North Carolina’s districts. He was paid with state dollars through the General Assembly budget. (Hofeller says he has also been “intensely involved” in this cycle’s redistricting process in Alabama, Massachusetts, Texas and Virginia.)

Pope has long been “the moving force behind Republican redistricting efforts in North Carolina,” says Dan Blue Jr. (Pope says he supports an independent state redistricting commission.) In 1992 Pope urged Blue, then Statehouse Speaker, to create twenty-six majority-minority districts. Blue refused, creating nineteen instead. Pope then sued him. “He seemed to believe that African-Americans were required to be represented by African-Americans,” Blue says. Twenty years later, Hofeller enacted Pope’s strategy. “The best recent example of success is in North Carolina,” the RSLC wrote in a July 2011 blog post.

And Texas is right in there with the worst of the worst.

Texas, a state not known for subtlety, chose to ignore its rapidly growing minority population altogether. One of four majority-minority states, Texas grew by ?4.3 million people between 2000 and 2010, two-thirds of them Hispanics and 11 percent black. As a result, the state gained four Congressional seats this cycle. Yet the number of seats to which minority voters could elect a candidate declined, from eleven to ten. As a result, Republicans will pick up three of the four new seats. “The Texas plan is by far the most extreme example of racial gerrymandering among all the redistricting proposals passed by lawmakers so far this year,” says Elisabeth MacNamara, president of the League of Women Voters.

As in the rest of the South, the new lines were drawn by white Republicans with no minority input. As the maps were drafted, Eric Opiela, counsel to the state’s Congressional Republicans, referred to key sections of the Voting Rights Act as “hocus-pocus.” Last year the Justice Department found that the state’s Congressional and Statehouse plans violated Section 5 of the VRA by “diminishing the ability of citizens of the United States, on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group, to elect their preferred candidates of choice.” (Texas has lost more Section 5 enforcement suits than any other state.)

Only by reading the voluminous lawsuits filed against the state can one appreciate just how creative Texas Republicans had to be to so successfully dilute and suppress the state’s minority vote. According to a lawsuit filed by a host of civil rights groups, “even though Whites’ share of the population declined from 52 percent to 45 percent, they remain the majority in 70 percent of Congressional Districts.” To cite just one of many examples: in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the Hispanic population increased by 440,898, the African-American population grew by 152,825 and the white population fell by 156,742. Yet white Republicans, a minority in the metropolis, control four of five Congressional seats. Despite declining in population, white Republicans managed to pick up two Congressional seats in the Dallas and Houston areas. In fact, whites are the minority in the state’s five largest counties but control twelve of nineteen Congressional districts.

Based on these disturbing facts, a DC District Court invalidated the state’s maps and ordered a three-judge panel in San Antonio to draw new ones that better accounted for Texas’s minority population, which improved Democratic prospects. The Supreme Court, however, recently ruled that the San Antonio court must use the state’s maps as the basis for the new districts, at least until a separate three-judge panel in Washington decides whether the maps violate the VRA. Final arguments will take place January 31, in a case that could have far-reaching ramifications for the rights of minority voters not just in Texas but across the South.

The new Southern Strategy Berman calls it.


No deal, no April Primary in Texas

Posted in 2012 Primary, Around The State, Redistricting at 3:58 pm by wcnews

The DC court made a surprising and important announcement yesterday, D.C. court says redistricting decision a month away.

A panel of federal judges told parties in a Texas redistricting case Wednesday not to expect a ruling within 30 days, throwing the date of the state’s political primaries further in doubt.

A ruling by the District of Columbia court in the complex case was expected to provide guidance to another federal panel in San Antonio trying to draw new maps for state House, Senate and congressional elections.

If the San Antonio court wants to maintain the April 3 primary date, “it will have to draw plans without benefit of a ruling from District Court in D.C.,” said Nina Perales with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Monday’s the deadline.

Monday map deadline

“What we’re awaiting is an indication from the San Antonio panel” as to what they are going to do, said Chris Elam, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas. “The ball rests in their court.”

Boyd Richie, the Texas Democratic Party chairman, said that he no longer believes maps will be available in time for April elections unless a settlement is reached.

The San Antonio court gave the parties until Monday to agree on a map or risk seeing the primaries slide further into the calendar year.

Via South Texas Chisme, here’s an excerpt from an editorial Michael Li wrote in the Star-Telegram, Legal wrangling over Texas redistricting misses the big story.

The crux of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott’s court argument has been that the only districts protected under the Voting Rights Act are districts where, unlike Senate District 10, a single minority group, by itself, controls outcomes in elections. In other words, in his view, Hispanic and African-American voters only get protected by the Voting Rights Act if they live in neatly defined ethnic barrios of the type that are becoming more and more rare in a multi-ethnic Texas.

Abbott’s argument is a one-two power grab. On the one hand, the state argues it can’t draw more African-American or Hispanic seats because the populations are too spread out across the region. Then it argues that it can fracture the coalitions that minority groups manage to forge because “coalitions” aren’t protected by voting rights laws.

Here’s the latest from the TDP.

BREAKING: TDP Advisory to Court on Election Timing

Earlier today, the D.C. court entered an order in the redistricting preclearance case telling all involved parties that they would not rule on the case for at least 30 days.

Given this development, the Texas Democratic Party filed an advisory with the San Antonio federal court relating to the election timeline. You can read the text of that advisory below, or see the filing here.


TO THE HONORABLE JUDGES OF SAID COURT: COMES NOW, the Texas Democratic Party, Boyd Richie in his capacity as Chair of the Texas Democratic Party, and files this Advisory concerning election timing, and would respectfully show this Honorable Court the following:

This afternoon, the three-judge United States District Court for the District of Columbia provided the docket entry attached as Exhibit A. In this entry the Court makes it clear that it will not be issuing its ruling within the next thirty days. In light of this, The Texas Democratic Party (hereinafter referred to as “TDP”) no longer believes district maps can be available in time for an April election, unless a settlement is reached. In the event a settlement is not reached, TDP is in favor of the Court abandoning the April election with a later election to be scheduled when more is known concerning district maps. While TDP continues to prefer a unified primary, TDP does not oppose holding the Presidential Election only in April in so far as the state agrees to cover the additional cost. As long as the state continues to oppose reimbursing the cost of the split election, TDP opposes a split election.

TDP appreciates the difficult issues facing this Court and the one in D.C. and is thankful for the Court’s consideration of the above.

Dated this 1st day of February, 2012.

And here’s the latest from BOR, Redistricting Update: San Antonio Court Will Draw Interim Maps.

That threw things back in the hands of the San Antonio court, which had been considering whether to wait on the D.C. court’s ruling before drawing new maps (an anomaly of the Voting Rights Act is that while only the D.C. court can rule on preclearance issues, it has no power to draw replacement maps to fix them - that’s the province of courts back in Texas).

Well, with the window for an April primary rapidly closing (if it hasn’t already), the San Antonio court entered an scheduling order this morning, directing briefing by February 10 at 6 p.m. on a number of issues related to interim maps and setting a hearing/status conference for February 15 at 8 a.m. (so much for Valentine’s Day for lovelorn lawyers).


Mean time, settlement talks are still going on being redistricting plaintiffs and the State of Texas.

The primary April 3rd primary has not been canceled yet. It looks like a settlement deal, really soon, is the only thing that can keep the primary from being moved again.

Further Reading:
African-American and Latino voters intervene in Texas voter ID lawsuit.


Abbott is in a tough spot over redistricting mess he created

Posted in 2012 Primary, Around The State, Bad Government Republicans, Redistricting at 2:06 pm by wcnews

A settlement in the Texas redistricting litigation, at least for interim maps, that seemed possible over the weekend, now appears to be on hold. From what it looks like the only one willing to deal on the GOP side is Attorney General Greg Abbott. Of course it’s his legal decisions and wrangling that’s drawn the process out this far, already postponing the 2012 Primary in Texas once. And he’ll be the one bearing the political responsibility for the extra cost if it’s postponed again or there’s a split primary.

Here’s an excerpt from Kuff’s great run down of the latest happenings, Redistricting settlement deal looking unlikely.

If that [the state is very likely to lose] really is the case, then there’s little incentive for the plaintiffs to settle. The primary date was more of an issue for Republicans, who want to have a say in their Presidential race and whose financial exposure for the state conventions is greater. And the previous talk about settlements, which sounded very favorable from a Democratic perspective, have apparently ruffled some feathers on that side of the aisle. Michael Li quotes from a post by RPT Chair Steve Munisteri, whose backside is clearly seeking some concealment:

It is important to note, that the talks between the Democratic and Republican parties deal solely with the deadlines and scheduling of the primary election, not with the boundaries of state legislative or Congressional districts. Only the Attorney General’s office’s attorneys are involved in those discussions. Thus, the email chains that have gone out accusing the Republican Party of Texas of trying to save a convention deposit in exchange for district lines, are blatantly false.

Emphasis mine. Translation: Don’t blame me if the pooch gets screwed.


That doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it’s often a sign of how the judges are thinking. If my reading is correct, that would be one reason why the state was interested in settling. By the same token, of course, that would be a disincentive for the plaintiffs to cut a deal. At this point, I’d say we’re waiting for the DC court to rule before anything else happens. We’ll know soon enough, though whether it’s soon enough to keep an April primary is question #1 and highly dependent on how soon we know. Campos has more

It’s not surprising that the only one who has something to lose by a long drawn out process is the only one willing to compromise. Everyone else seems willing to let the process run it’s course unless they can get what they want. Oh, and Burka reminds us that we could be going this all over again after the next legislative session, GOP looks to 2013 for redistricting.


Is the Texas GOP “crying uncle” in redistricting fight?

Posted in 2012 Primary, Around The State, Redistricting at 1:23 am by wcnews

It looks like the Texas GOP is convinced that they’re likely to lose the precelarance trial. Via The Hill, Texas Dems, minority groups near huge win with redistricting settlement.

The Texas state attorneys defending the state’s GOP-drawn redistricting plans from court challenges have reached out to settle litigation, according to sources in the state. The settlement would give minority groups and Democrats what they’ve been demanding from the start: more heavily minority, Democratic-leaning House seats.

The result would likely mean at least four more Texas Democrats in Congress as of next year, a good start on the 25 or so seats Democrats need to win to retake control of the House.

“They’re backed up against the wall and have to come to some agreement and it’ll be awfully favorable on our end,” said one of the plaintiffs in the case. [Emphasis added]

Another plaintiff agreed. “It’s clear they know they’re in a vulnerable position and that’s why they want to settle,” he said.

Kuff has much more and says it, “If..true, it’s amazing”. Not to mention a huge waste of time and money too.


Shocked to find politics taking place during redistricting

Posted in Around The State, Commentary, Redistricting at 10:39 am by wcnews

It’s not like this is a surprise to anyone who knows politics in Texas. To find out that during the redistricting process there was politics going on.

Asked what “really bad” meant in reference to judges, Hebert said that it meant Republicans didn’t want Democrats or minorities. “They knew all along their plan was discriminatory,” said Hebert. “This is confirming evidence.”

Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project, a Democratic advocacy group, agreed that the email confirms that Republicans wanted to skirt the voting rights law. “They were looking to rig the deal from the git-go.”

The Texas attorney general’s office declined comment. Interiano, who is due to testify in the D.C. court again today after testifying last week, did not respond to a request for comment.

It’s just that this kind of thing is only talked about in “quiet rooms”, not in open court with press taking not. It’s rare that we get a trial to bring all the “sausage making” out into the open. The Texas GOP can thank Greg Abbott for that.


Update on redistricting and polling place photo ID restrictions

Posted in 2012 Primary, Around The State, Election 2012, Redistricting at 11:12 am by wcnews

The crux of the issue with redistricting in Texas boils down to the highlighted sentence below from Michael Li, Election schedule, interim map update.

In an order issued this afternoon, the San Antonio court cancelled the scheduled February 1 status conference and instead asked the parties to appear for a status conference this Friday, January 27, at 1 p.m.

However, the court told the parties that if they wish to maintain a unified April 3 primary date that they would need to agree among themselves on maps by February 6.

If the parties are unable to agree upon maps, they are to submit a list of unobjected to districts by February 6 for the court’s consideration.

The majority (GOP) is going to have to work with, i.e. compromise with, the minority (Democrats) in order to get a set up maps passed by the deadline for an April Primary to be possible. Isn’t it interesting that it comes down to that? Because the GOP was adamantly opposed to that during the legislative session is the reason we are in this predicament in the first place. It’s because of the shenanigans and unwillingness of the GOP leaders in the legislature to work with Democrats, in a few areas, that their redistricting plans failed to hold up to legal scrutiny.

And same goes for their polling place photo ID restrictions bill, aka Voter ID. The Texas GOP didn’t have to pass the most restrictive law photo ID restriction law ever, but they did.

The law, known as Senate Bill 14, would establish a very limited list of accepted forms of photo identification, and would require all voters to show an acceptable ID before they will be permitted to vote. Other previously acceptable documents, like birth certificates and utility bills, will no longer be accepted as sufficient proof of identification.

Notably, university student ID cards and state and federal government employee ID cards would also be rejected. This extremely narrow list of acceptable identification documents makes Texas’ law one of the most restrictive pieces of voter ID legislation in the entire country.

There were areas for compromise with Democrats on an ID bill but since the GOP had large enough majorities in the legislature they saw no need. And, again, their extremism and overreach brought about enactment of legislation that can’t hold up to legal scrutiny. There is a school of thought out there that believes the whole point of the GOP passing such extreme measures, in redistricting and photo restriction, is to bring about a constitutional challenge of the Voting Rights Act. That’s hard to argue with.

Kuff has two good posts on both of these issues:
Redistricting, Trying to save the April 3 primary date.

The race is on to get new maps in hand in time to keep the April 3 primary date, since all the options for after that date are distinctly unpalatable in one way or another. On Friday, the State of Texas asked the San Antonio court to get its work done by January 30. The courtasked for responses to that request; the plaintiffs said it wasn’t realistic while the state said they’d work late and by phone to make it happen. They also suggested moving the second filing deadline to February 6 and shortening the period for mailing military ballots to 25 days. The court responded with some requests of its own.

And polling place photo ID restrictins, Texas files suit to preclear voter ID.

As we know, the Justice Department has been asking the state for data about how this law will affect minority voters, and it’s only in the last couple of weeks that the state has sort of fulfilled those requests. The DOJ refused to preclear a new voter ID law in South Carolina on the grounds that it was discriminatory, with AG Abbott expressing at that time the opinion that Texas’ law was headed for a similar fate. We’ll see what the DC court makes of this. For what it’s worth, they so far have not shown any inclination in the redistricting preclearance lawsuit to be more lenient on the state than Justice would have been. Postcardshas more, Texas Redistricting has a response to Abbott from MALC Chair Trey Martinez-Fischer, and a statement from Sen. Rodney Ellis is here.

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