Legal rulings could force Texas back into federal oversight

Court: Texas House map drawn to dilute minority voters

Court: Texas House map drawn to dilute minority voters

The latest came Thursday when a federal court found that Republicans intentionally undermined minorities when drawing statehouse districts in 2011. (The Court's decisions also effectively allowed the Texas redistricting and voter ID laws, which had all been tied up in court, to go into effect.) But the Court allowed for the possibility that states could be placed back under federal oversight if contemporary discrimination was found.

Texas lawmakers intentionally diluted the political clout of minority voters in drawing the state's House districts, a panel of federal judges ruled Thursday. Go figure those districts just happen to encompass some of Texas' urban, left-leaning counties like Bexar, Harris, El Paso and Nieces.

The ruling followed a March decision by the same panel that voided three congressional districts, including one in Travis County, that also were found to have been improperly drawn in 2011 to dilute the voting strength of Latinos and African-Americans. "The majority's findings are fatally infected, from start to finish, with the misunderstanding that race, rather than partisan advantage, was the main reason for the congressional and state House districts drawn in 2011".

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"As 5th Circuit Judge Jerry Smith observed in his dissent, the challenge to the old 2011 maps are not only moot but 'a finding that racial considerations were dominant and controlling defies everything about this record, '" he said.

In a statement, the Texas attorney general's office said it respectfully disagreed with the ruling. He wants the three judge panel to redraw the maps before the 2018 elections. That means there will have to be a separate legal challenge to that plan too since it's the one now in existence, but that litigation should be much easier and quicker if Thursday's ruling against the original 2011 map stands.

"Today's ruling on the state House map proved what we've known all along - Republicans in the Legislature cynically and intentionally divided minority voters so Republicans could enhance their power", said Grand Prairie's Rep. Chris Turner, head of the House Democratic Caucus. "Accordingly, we are confident we will ultimately prevail in this case". The courts have already settled squabbles over the state Senate map. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, has refused to say whether she will call a hearing. They will debate several issues, including a timeline and roadmap for any fixes the courts require.