Mapmakers, Mapmakers

Make us a map. And another. And another …

THE GHOST OF TOM DELAY HAUNTS Texas politics still. On August 3 the three-judge panel that previously blessed the DeLay-inspired mid-census redistricting plan will hear oral arguments on how to fix District 23, the one flaw that the Supreme Court found in the map passed by the Legislature in 2003. (Governor Perry could have called a special session to redraw the district, but he’s not crazy.) The judges must restore some 100,000 Latinos to the huge southwest Texas district, which is represented by Republican Henry Bonilla, of San Antonio; by dividing Webb County (Laredo) and stranding the Latinos in an adjacent district, the Legislature violated the Voting Rights Act. The easy solution is to make Webb County whole again—but that’s the last thing Bonilla wants. It’s why the Legislature moved Latinos out of his district in the first place: In Bonilla’s 2002 race for reelection, he got only 8 percent of the Latino vote in winning, barely, with 51.5 percent of the vote. Bonilla wants to close his Latino population gap by reaching into District 11, represented by fellow Republican Mike Conaway, of Midland, because Latino turnout there is smaller than in Laredo and poses less of a threat to him. But that’s hardly what Conaway—and another Midland politico of note, namely, Speaker Tom Craddick—wants. To make up for this lost Latino population, the judges would then likely move the fast-growing exurban counties north and west of San Antonio into Conaway’s territory, shifting the balance of power in his district to the east. However the judges decide to jiggle the map, don’t be surprised if Texas congressmen show up in Austin next spring begging the Legislature to rejiggle it—again.

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