The State of Texas: Federal Judge Rules City Of Pasadena Violated Voting Rights Act
Plus: Greg Abbott and Ted Cruz host Taiwan’s president in Houston, a man shoots himself while in police custody in downtown Austin, and the Texans come out victorious in one of the worst playoff match-ups ever.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“They thought they had the biggest bust in Harris County. This was the bust of the year for them.”
—Ross Lebeau, of Cypress, to KTRK. Lebeau was arrested in Harris County in December and charged with possessing nearly a half-pound of meth, backed by two field tests that yielded positive results. But the case was later dismissed on the grounds that Lebeau was never actually in possession of a controlled substance. How? Well, according to Lebeau, the field tests were wrong, leading police to mistake a pair of socks filled with cat litter for meth.
On Friday, a federal judge ruled that political leaders in the city of Pasadena violated the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment by changing local election laws to intentionally diminish the voting power of Latinos, according to the Houston Chronicle. “In Pasadena, Texas, Latino voters… do not have the same right to vote as their Anglo neighbors,” Chief U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal wrote in his decision, according to the Chronicle. The ruling comes after a lawsuit was filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund on behalf of a group of Latino voters, alleging that city officials intentionally tried to weaken the voting power of Pasadena’s Latino population in 2014 by changing the city council election process. Rosenthal ruled that the strange hybrid—six single-member districts and two at-large positions—that replaced the eight signle-member districts was an attempt to dilute the Latino vote. Like many Texas cities, the Latino voting bloc has grown considerably in Pasadena, a city of 152,000 that is 62 percent Latino. The redistricting came at a time when the city’s Republican leadership was expected to face a major challenge, Rosenthal wrote in his decision, with Republican-held city council potentially facing a majority shift largely due to Latino votes. As the Chronicle notes, Rosenthal’s decision has national implications, as it challenges a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2013 that sort of ripped out the heart of the Voting Right’s Act by allowing states with a history of racial discrimination against voters to make changes to their elections laws without getting approval from the federal government first. In his ruling, Rosenthal said Pasadena has to go back to its original districting map and would need clearance from the Department of Justice before it makes any other changes to its electoral system in the future. Pasadena will probably appeal the decision, but the ruling will still have a huge impact on May’s election, as every city council seat and the mayor’s post will be up for grabs.
MEANWHILE, IN TEXAS
Governor Greg Abbott and Senator Ted Cruz met with the President of Taiwan in Houston on Sunday, according to the Texas Tribune. China apparently wasn’t too happy about it—according to Cruz, the Chinese consulate sent a letter to the Houston congressional delegation requesting that they don’t meet with President Tsai Ing-wen—but, well, they did it anyway, and Cruz was unapologetic. “The People’s Republic of China needs to understand that we make decisions about meeting with visitors for ourselves,” Cruz said in a statement, according to the Tribune. “We will continue to meet with anyone, including the Taiwanese, as we see fit.” China, of course, has a fraught relationship with Taiwan (to put it mildly), and while the U.S. maintains an unofficial relationship with Taiwan, it doesn’t recognize it as a sovereign nation. In a tweet, Abbott said that in the meeting, they discussed “expanding trade and economic opportunities.” The meeting came at a time when tensions are particularly high between the U.S. and China over Taiwan, thanks to President-elect Donald Trump’s phone chat with Ing-wen after his Election Day victory, a move that broke longstanding U.S. diplomatic protocol and made the Chinese pretty upset.
A young man who was arrested for shoplifting somehow managed to shoot himself in the head while handcuffed in the back of a police car in downtown Austin on Sunday afternoon, according to KXAN. Details about the incident are still pretty scarce, and authorities are still trying to figure out how, exactly, the suspect was able to have a weapon while in the backseat of a police cruiser. As KXAN notes, the Austin Police Department’s protocol calls for searching someone for weapons before they’re taken into custody. Police arrested the man at Barton Creek Square Mall for shoplifting and possession of a controlled substance, and when they were driving him to police headquarters downtown, he began making suicidal comments. The man then “removed a pistol it appears from the back of his waistband” and “placed it towards his head while still handcuffed,” Interim Police Chief Brian Manley said. After a standoff that lasted about six minutes, the man shot himself in the head. He’s in critical condition, and police apparently still haven’t even been able to identify who this man is.
The Houston Texans handily won their playoff showdown against the Oakland Raiders on Saturday, 27-14, but the game wasn’t exactly a gridiron classic. The Texans came into the postseason matchup as one of the worst playoff teams ever, thanks to an anemic offense led by Brock Osweiler, and finished the regular season with a 9-7 record despite a ridiculous point differential of -49, according to ESPN. The Raiders, meanwhile, were one of the AFC’s strongest teams for most of the season, until injuries decimated its roster and left the team’s fate in the hands of inexperienced rookie quarterback Connor Cook. The game was hyped as one of the worst playoff matchups of all-time, and was expected to lose ESPN $75 million just for televising it. Anyway, Cook was predictably awful (18 completions on 45 attempts for just 161 yards while throwing one touchdown against three interceptions), both teams combined for just 494 total yards on offense, and the game’s most exciting moment was a punt returned by the Raiders for a touchdown that was eventually wiped out by a dumb penalty. Unfortunately for the Texans, they take on the New England Patriots next week. They’ll need a miracle.
WHAT WE’RE READING
The guy Austin hired to lead its crime lab got horrible grades in his college forensics classes Austin American-Statesman
The most expensive capital project in the city of Denton’s history is shrouded in secrecy Denton Record-Chronicle
A peak into the life of Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett Wall Street Journal
Two people were arrested for tying themselves to a tractor while protesting the Trans-Pecos pipeline near Marfa KOSA
This high school girl’s soccer star in the Rio Grande Valley has a pretty amazing and inspiring story RGVSports.com