Governor Perry and Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst published an op-ed piece on redistricting in today’s Houston Chronicle. Here is an excerpt:
Following every federal census, the Texas Constitution requires the Texas Legislature to draw new district boundaries for the Texas House of Representatives, Texas Senate and U.S. Congress, which the Legislature did in 2011 based upon the 2010 census results.
But the boundaries in place today were not drawn, nor have they ever been approved by the people’s elected representatives in the Legislature.
In 2012, after extensive litigation and delay, Texas’ elections were conducted based on maps ordered by a federal court instead of the maps enacted by the Legislature. The maps used in the 2012 elections reflected negotiations between the state and several minority groups who complained that the legislatively enacted maps denied them the representation required by law.
In fact, according to the San Antonio federal court, the 2012 maps drawn by the judges corrected for every meaningful allegation of illegality levied against the legislatively enacted maps. The 2012 maps also addressed every legal flaw identified by a separate federal court in Washington, D.C.
Is this a true statement? Did the judges correct for “every meaningful allegation of illegality?” as Dewhurst and Perry claim? Dewhurst and Perry want it both ways. They want to be able to say that the judges have already corrected the interim maps and therefore they should be adopted, and they also want to say that the negotiations between the state and minority groups locked in whatever decisions were made on the interim maps. But the statement below that the interim maps were developed for expediency’s sake establishes that the interim maps may still have infirmities.
Here is what the judges themselves said about the maps:
In an order released last September, the San Antonio court suggested that the 2012 interim maps were developed for expediency’s sake and may not be fully constitutional. In the court’s words, “the United States Supreme Court has ‘authorized District Courts to order or to permit elections to be held pursuant to apportionment plans that do not in all respects measure up to the legal requirements, even constitutional requirements.’”
In other words, the maps drawn by the judges did NOT correct for every meaningful allegation of illegality. There may have been constitutional infirmities in the interim maps.
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If the Legislature attempts to proceed with ratification of the maps, I would think that minority groups and organizations would object. Further, they might pursue in court a claim that the attempt to re-ratify the maps could be regarded as additional evidence of intentional discrimination by the State—an effort to gain an advantage by making permanent the maps adopted by the Legislature, effectively legitimatizing fragmenting and other tactics used by the Legislature in the interim maps.