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Tag Archives: texas redistricting

Texas House Map Must be Redrawn, Federal Court Says

Parts of the Texas House map must be redrawn ahead of the 2018 elections because lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minorities in crafting several legislative districts, federal judges ruled on Thursday.

A three-judge panel in San Antonio unanimously ruled that Texas must address violations that could affect the configuration of House districts in four counties, where lawmakers diluted the strength of voters of color.  In some cases, the court found mapdrawers intentionally undercut minority voting power “to ensure Anglo control” of legislative districts. 

These are the nine districts the court flagged:

Adjusting those boundaries could have a ripple effect on other races.

The 83-page decision was the latest twist in a six-year-legal battle. The judges had already ruled that the Texas Legislature intentionally sought to weaken the strength of Latino and black voters while drawing the House map in 2011. 

But the 2011 map never actually took effect because the court drew temporary maps ahead of the 2012 elections. State lawmakers formally adopted the map in 2013 with few changes. Texas has used that map for the past three election cycles.

In adopting the 2013 map, the court ruled on Thursday that lawmakers “purposefully maintained the intentional discrimination” found in the previous map.

The ruling came the week after the same court invalidated two Texas congressional districts — CD 27, represented by Republican Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi, and CD 35, represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin — and ruled that intentional discrimination against voters of color required those districts to be redrawn.

In both the congressional and state House rulings, the court ordered Attorney General Ken Paxton to signal whether the Legislature would take up redistricting to fix violations in the maps.

But so far, state leaders have signaled they have no appetite to call lawmakers back to Austin over mapmaking. Instead, Texas is looking to the U.S. Supreme Court to keep its political boundaries intact.

“The judges held that maps they themselves adopted violate the law,” Paxton said in a Thursday statement. “Needless to say, we will appeal.”

Meanwhile, the state and the parties that sued over the congressional districts are scheduled to return to court on Sept. 5 to begin redrawing the congressional map. In its Thursday ruling, the court indicated they should be prepared to also meet on Sept. 6 to consider changes to the state House map.

“Today’s ruling once again found that Texas racially gerrymandered its voting districts and used Latino voters as pawns in doing so,” said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, who is representing plaintiffs in the case. “With the 2018 election cycle fast approaching, it’s time for Texas to stop discriminating against Latino voters and agree to a remedy that will provide equal opportunity to all.”

Thursday’s ruling was largely a win for MALDEF and other minority rights groups that sued the state, and it marks Paxton’s fourth voting rights loss in nine days. That includes the Congressional map ruling, a ruling that tossed out the state’s new voter identification law and another ruling that a state restriction on language interpreters at the polls violates the Voting Rights Act.

An open question is whether judges will approve new boundaries without delaying the March 2018 primaries. A delay could further shake up some races, with echoes of 2012, when Ted Cruz scored an upset victory, thanks in part to primaries delayed by legal wrangling.

Local elections administrators say they need clarity by October to meet deadlines for sending out voter registration cards, and December is the filing deadline for candidates.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • A barrage of court rulings has forced Texas leaders to confront whether they strayed too far in enacting voting laws found to have disproportionately burdened minorities. [Full story]
  • Federal judges have invalidated two of Texas’ 36 congressional districts, setting up a scramble to redraw them ahead of the 2018 elections. [Full story]
  • The outcome of a voting rights fight over Pasadena Hispanics’ right to choose their city council members could reverberate beyond the city limits of this Houston suburb. [Full story]

Author:  ALEXA URA AND JIM MALEWITZ – The Texas Tribune

Analysis: A 2018 Texas Legislative Battle Map, Federal Courts Willing

The three federal judges hearing the latest arguments in the state’s redistricting case could make significant changes to the makeup of the Texas House — if they decide to change the maps before next year’s elections. If they don’t — or if the changes they make are relatively minor — not very many House districts are competitive in a general election.

The Texas Senate is out of the court’s reach; the political maps for those 31 seats were agreed to and blessed by both the courts and the state years ago. With a couple of exceptions, they’re not very competitive — at least in general elections. Democrats have a virtual lock on 10 seats, Republicans on 17. In the remaining seats, statewide Republican candidates and statewide Democratic candidates finished, on average, fewer than 10 percentage points apart in last November’s election.

Fifteen Senate seats will be on next year’s ballot.

State Sen. Konni Burton, R-Colleyville, is the incumbent in the closest district, where Donald Trump squeaked past Hillary Clinton by 0.59 percent — 1,806 votes out of more than 308,000 cast. Other candidates on the Republican side outperformed the president, winning by an average of 46.8 percentage points.

Sen. Don Huffines, R-Dallas, represents a district where Republican and Democratic statewide candidates, on average, finished 8.9 percentage points apart. His is the only Republican Senate district where Clinton beat Trump (by 4.7 percentage points). Huffines wasn’t on the 2016 ballot, but he’s gearing up for a 2018 re-election bid.

Republicans did better in the district represented by Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston — winning by an average of 12.2 percentage points in statewide races. But Trump’s winning margin was a mere 0.89 percentage points. Huffman’s seat will be on the 2018 ballot.

In the House, all 150 seats will be on the 2018 ballot; statewide candidates finished at least 10 percentage points apart in all but 14 of those districts. Put another way, in 83 districts, Republicans won by at least 10 percentage points in the average contested statewide race. In 53 districts, the average statewide Democratic candidate won by 10 percentage points or more. (For the state as a whole, the average Republican won by 14.1 percentage points in 2016.)

The 14 seats where the margins were in single digits make up a preliminary target list. That’s unfortunate for the GOP because only two of the target seats are currently held by Democrats. Conversely, the list has Democrats dreaming of chances to cut into the 95-55 Republican advantage in the Texas House. What’s more, Clinton won in all but three of those seats, hinting at possible trouble for Republicans who will be running in the first midterm election of the Trump presidency.

Which incumbents have trouble in the rearview mirrors? Democrats Victoria Neave of Dallas and Philip Cortez of San Antonio; and Republicans Rodney Anderson of Grand Prairie, Linda Koop of Dallas, Matt Rinaldi of Irving, Cindy Burkett of Sunnyvale, Sarah Davis of West University Place, Tony Dale of Cedar Park, Angie Chen Button of Richardson, J.M. Lozano of Kingsville, Jason Villalba of Dallas, Larry Gonzales of Round Rock, Gary Elkins of Houston and Dwayne Bohac of Houston.

The federal judges way up there in the first sentence could change all of this. They’re at the end of a week of hearings over the congressional and Texas House political maps adopted in 2013 (after 2011 maps were tossed out as unconstitutional) to decide whether the state’s mapmakers cheated any of the state’s voters out of their electoral influence.

If those judges decide the maps in use aren’t fair, the lines could be changed before the 2018 primaries and, with them, the odds for the incumbent members and incumbent parties in each district.

Texas Democrats start the election cycle with a reasonable chance to pick up a handful of House seats. They’re hoping the courts put more districts in play. But they’d need to flip 21 seats to regain the majority they lost in the 2002 elections. That’s a stretch.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • It’s true that three of the Republican incumbents in the Texas congressional delegation live in districts where Donald Trump lost, but unless judges change the state’s political maps, two of those districts are still dominated by the GOP. [link]
  • Winning some more seats in the congressional delegation or the Legislature would make Texas Democrats happy, but the real prize at stake in the state’s redistricting legislation is federal oversight of the state’s Republican mapmakers. [link]

Author: ROSS RAMSEY – The Texas Tribune