The Hill: Texas Democrats, minorities, near "huge win"" with redistricting settlement
Sat January 28, 2012 12:14 pm

From the story, dated 1/27, by Cameron Joseph:

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.

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

Any settlement would need to get the multiple minority group plaintiffs on board, and would create more majority-Hispanic and majority-African American congressional districts. Two of the plaintiffs predicted that an agreement will be reached early next week.

Any agreement would lead to a minimum of 13 Democratic-leaning seats, and possibly a fourteenth seat depending on how the districts in Fort Worth are drawn.

With conservative former Rep. Nick Lampson (D-Texas) running for a Galveston-area seat, Democrats could win as many as 14 or 15 seats in the state, up from the nine seats they currently hold. Republicans would hold 21 or 22 seats, down from the 23 they currently have. Those 23 seats include two Democratic-leaning seats won by Republican Reps. Quico Canseco and Blake Farenthold in the 2010 Republican wave election. Farenthold would have a chance to run in the same Galveston district Lampson is likely to run in, while Canseco would have an uphill fight for reelection.

Texas Republicans in the legislature likely overreached by drawing a very Republican-friendly maps for the statehouse and Congress. Because of Texas’s history of racial discrimination it needs to get its redistricting maps cleared at the federal level under the Voting Rights Act, and it has been increasingly clear that those maps would not be cleared.

In exchange for a map that would give minorities and Democrats what they want, the agreement would allow Republicans to keep the state’s primary on April 3, saving the state money and making it more likely its presidential primary will be early enough to matter. Texas has already had to move its primary back once because of the ongoing court cases. They would also avoid having two federal courts label their plans intentionally discriminatory.

* * * *

Even though the state won its case in the Supreme Court--Attorney General Abbott persuaded the High Court to toss out the maps drawn by the federal district court for the Western District of Texas--the Supreme Court was between a rock and a hard place. It was either going to have to draw the maps itself, which would happen on a cold day in hell, or delegate the task back to the District Court, which it had previously chided by ruling:

"To the extent the [federal] District Court exceeded its mission to draw interim maps that do not violate the Constitution or the Voting Rights Act, and substituted its own concept of 'the collective public good' for the Texas Legislature's determination of which policies serve 'the interests of the citizens of Texas,' the [district] court erred."

Abbott may find himself on the hot seat again, as critics are sure to question (again) his decision to go forum shopping by making an end run around the Department of Justice: going straight to the Republican-dominated district court of the District of Columbia and  moving for summary judgment to preclear the state's congressional and legislative maps. But the D.C. Court found potential evidence of discriminatory intent, and suddenly Abbott's litigation strategy didn't look so clever. To be fair to Abbott, he didn't have much choice; the House supermajority was dead set on maximizing seats for both the House and the Congressional maps. The impulse to overreach is common to large majorities, regardless of party. But the result is that the state's legal team ran out of time, which would not have occurred had Abbott taken the traditional route of seeking preclearance from the Department of Justice.

And so, in a single stroke, the Republican Legislature has managed to resurrect the Democratic party from the ashes of the 2010 election and the 2003 Tom DeLay midcensus redistricting.

 

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