Texas Gerrymandering is still before the Supreme Court
by jcullen, Sat Apr 08, 2006 at 08:53:37 PM EDT
With the announcement of Tom DeLay's pending resignation from Congress, it is worth considering what might happen if the US Supreme Court overturns all or part of the 2003 Republican gerrymandering that turned the Texas congressional delegation from 17-15 Democratic after the 2002 election to 21-11 Republican currently.
Renea Hicks, a prominent Austin attorney on redistricting matters who represents the city of Austin, Travis County and former Austin mayor Gus Garcia, argued the case before the Supreme Court on March 1 and expects a decision by June. At a briefing for Austin Democrats on March 8, he said if the court finds the Texas Legislature engaged in an unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering of one or more congressional districts, it could order a new open primary to be held on the general election day, and a runoff in December, as it did in 1996.
DeLay is charged in Travis County (Austin) state district court with illegally funneling corporate money to state House races in 2002 to clear the way for his partisan gerrymandering plan in 2003, which resulted in the loss of six Democratic seats.
Issues in the appeal, Hicks explained, include: * The Texas case represented an illegal partisan gerrymandering. The Supreme Court rejected an appeal of a similar partisan gerrymandering in Pennsylvania, but in that case redistricting was required after the new census. In the Texas case, there was no other reason for the 2003 redistricting but partisan gain. * The Texas case violates the concept of "one person, one vote." In the 2003 redistricting, the Republican Texas Legislature used census figures that were three years old. By that time, the state had grown by an estimated 1.5 million people, with many of them being Mexican Americans. Hicks argued that if the state were going to update the congressional districts, they should have used updated census figures. * Individual districts, including the 23rd, 24th and 25th, diluted minority voting communities in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Hicks noted that Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who could be a swing vote on the court, has expressed the opinion that District 25, which stretches from Austin to Brownsville and is now represented by Lloyd Doggett of Austin, violates the constitution. If the court orders the state to redraw that district into a more compact shape that preserves minority communities of interest, it likely would result in considerable changes in the statewide plan. The case, which is probably the clearest example of a redistricting motivated entirely for political reasons, could hinge on whether new Chief Justice John Roberts wants to show that he is not a partisan hack along the lines of Bush v Gore in 2000. If the court does not overturn the Texas gerrymandering, Hicks said, it would clear the way for state and local officials nationwide to redraw their districts at will for partisan political reasons "and stay one step ahead of the voters."
Texas Congress Redistricting Races