The outcome of this case was predestined. For months, the D.C. court warned that Texas’s failure to provide Hispanic opportunity districts when there were huge Hispanic population gains could be construed as evidence of intentional discrimination. There was no way a fair court could ignore the facts in the case: that Texas qualified for four new congressional seats due almost entirely to Hispanic growth, and yet the Legislature provided no new Hispanic congressional seats. The same could be said for state House districts.
The failure must be laid entirely at Greg Abbott’s door. It was Abbott who tried to make an end run around the Department of Justice by choosing to take his case to the D.C. district court. It was Abbott who kept insisting that the Texas maps were legal. The D.C. court also sniffed out the shenanigans the state was employing to weaken districts where minorities were concentrated by moving out the most active voters and replacing them with less active voting populations–with the connivance of the Speaker of the House, in CD-23. I am sorry to report that I never had a moment’s doubt that Abbott, and Texas, would lose the case.
This is a permanent black mark on Abbott’s record: guilty of intentional discrimination. That won’t soon be forgotten. It is possible, of course, that the Supreme Court could rule in his favor on appeal, but to do so they would have to ignore the finding of intentional discrimination by the D.C. Court of Appeals, one of the most respected courts in the federal system.
It is going to be interesting to see what Abbott and Perry do next. Will they seek to redistrict in the 2013 session, as there were rumblings they might do? The problem for the Republicans is that they cannot draw maps that don’t betray discriminatory intent. They can redistrict, but they can’t get a court to bless their work.
UPDATE: Several readers have raised the issue that it was unfair of me to claim that Abbott is himself guilty of intentional discrimination and to place the blame for the maps solely at his feet. They are right, which I acknowledge below in the comments. I certainly understand what the attorney general’s role and duties are in moving the maps through the preclearance process and defending them under Section V of the Voting Rights Act. But overall, the ruling from the D.C. court does claim that the maps, as drawn by the state’s leaders and subsequently defended in the D.C. court, discriminated against minority voters, which was my main point.