As soon as we captured Senate District 10 in 2008 with the candidacy of Wendy Davis, the Republican-dominated legislature set a course to cut out the minority precincts which supported and boosted Davis, a Democrat, into office. The Texas legislature’s redistricting plan redrew the boundaries for Congress and the state House and Senate districts, at our exclusion and without our input, and in contradiction to the Voting Rights Act.
Wendy Davis took Texas to court over Senate District 10, while at the same time Marc Veasey took the state to court over defining the boundaries of the new Congressional District 33. The case was heard first in the federal court in the Western District of Texas.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott defended the redistricting plan, and also put forth the same plan before a three-judge panel in Washington, D.C., in order to gain “preclearance” approval.
As it turned out, the federal court in Texas threw out the Texas legislature’s redistricting map, and drew up a new map. Attorney General Abbott and Governor Rick Perry immediately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. But the High Court refused to endorse Texas' plan, but claimed that the lower court had overstepped its bounds. The case was sent back to the federal court in Texas, where the redistricting map boundaries would again undergo the slow process of being redrawn.
In the process, and as the Republican primary season in Texas lingered unsettled pending litigation, a compromise between parties was reached. Wendy Davis was awarded her original senate district back, and Congressional District 33 would be drawn as a minority-majority district.
NOW, the verdict is in on the other case, where Texas’s attempted and end-run around the Obama Justice Department to gain preclearance through the D.C. court.
[Excerpts from “Texas loses gamble on redistricting”]
The gamble by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Republican lawmakers to bypass the Obama Justice Department with redistricting maps backfired big time when a federal court on Tuesday rejected all the plans, even one that U.S. officials hadn't found objectionable.
The three-judge panel, which held a trial in January, concluded that the Republican-dominated Legislature's redrawing of districts for Congress and the state House and Senate did not comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.
What's more, the court said lawmakers acted with discriminatory intent in crafting boundaries for congressional districts and Fort Worth's Senate District 10, represented by Democrat Wendy Davis.
Even though the Justice Department had not objected to the Texas Senate map, the court was persuaded by arguments from Davis and others that SD 10 was improperly reconfigured in a way that "cracked" African-American and Hispanic voters who had coalesced to elect her in 2008.
“That Texas did not, and now fails to respond sufficiently to the parties' evidence of discriminatory intent, compels us to conclude that the Senate Plan was enacted with discriminatory purpose as to SD 10,” wrote Judge Thomas Griffith, U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C.
The court cited several factors pointing to discriminatory purpose in developing the congressional map: The Legislature “removed the economic guts” from the three districts represented by African Americans, while “no such surgery was performed on the districts of Anglo incumbents”.
Abbott tweeted that he would appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, and he issued a statement saying the appellate judges' decision "extends the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits intended by Congress and beyond the boundaries imposed by the Constitution."
This is the question that Texas wants to present before the High Court: The Constitutionality of the Voting Rights Acts, as currently administered and enforced. In its fight for state’s rights sovereignty, Texas does not want to be compelled to pre-clear electoral changes through the federal Department of Justice.
In the previous Supreme Court’s ruling in (Governor Rick) Perry v. (State Senator Wendy) Davis, some members of the Court hinted at taking on the 1965 Voting Rights Act, as if sections of the old Civil Rights law may have outlived its purpose, because the era of racial discrimination is over.
It might be noted that other states are also taking aim at the Act on the same grounds, and the Republican Party itself is advocating the law's complete abolition. But the gerrymandering of SD 10 is proof, in and of itself, of the need for continued federal Civil Rights protection for minority voting districts.
Without such protection, it would be legal for a Texas GOP-dominated legislature to remove “the economic guts from the three districts represented by African Americans, while no such surgery (would be) performed on the districts of Anglo incumbents”, as stated by the U.S. Appeal Court.