Texas Redistricting Impasse Has Primaries in Doubt
A panel of federal judges say they are troubled by the arguments the state of Texas is offering to defend the process state lawmakers used to redraw state and congressional district voting districts.
The hearing before the three judge panel is being held under orders from the U.S. Supreme Court, with instructions to work out compromise state redistricting maps acceptable to the state and to the U.S. Justice Department.
In hearings this week, Justice Department lawyers and minority rights groups told the panel that the maps drawn by the legislature last year are unacceptable because they dilute minority voting strength and discriminate against Latinos and African-Americans.
Lawyers for the state argued that the Republican-controlled Legislature drew the maps to consolidate GOP power, and maintained the number of Hispanics and blacks in political districts. They said any discrimination that may have resulted was unintentional.
One judge asked why the house and office of Democratic Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, an African-American lawmaker, were stripped out of her district, while the San Antonio Country Club was tucked into the district of Republican Congressman Lamar Smith, at his request.
The judges appeared skeptical when Republican staffers who drew the maps testified that they had little guidance from the Republican lawmakers in charge of the process.
The panel is expected to rule as early as next week because Texas political primary elections could hinge on its decision.The primaries were to be held in March, but they’ve been rescheduled for April 3rd because of the legal challenge. It’s possible they could be delayed even more.
Texas is one of nine mostly Southern states that are required under the 1964 U.S. Voting Rights Act to get pre-approval by the Justice Department or the U.S. District Court for any changes to political maps or processes.