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Congressional Redistricting: LULAC’s Lawsuit

June 15, 2011 2011 Redistricting 4 Comments

» KSAT: LULAC Files Redistricting Lawsuit

There are lawsuits aplenty that have already been filed, but I’d rank LULAC’s as likeliest to make it’s way further down the process than others. Here’s the nub of their argument …

LULAC filed its legal challenge in the U.S. District Court’s Western District of Texas. The suit alleges the state is trying to take away votes from Latinos.

Vera said the first issue they have is with the 2010 U.S. Census. According to Vera, the census did not provide an accurate count of Latinos in Texas. Vera argued if the count was accurate, Texas would have gained a fifth Congressional district, so the lawsuit seeks to have those numbers thrown out and an accurate count provided.

The second part of the suit alleges violations of the Voting Rights Act, specifically that Texas Republicans drawing the new maps are packing Latino voters into districts in disproportionate numbers.

LULAC also argued that as it stands now, the redistricting takes away one Latino opportunity district without replacing it with another one.

I’m not a lawyer, nor am I going to pretend to be one on a blog or television. But I don’t seem to recall “bad census numbers” ever being a very successful grounds for lawsuits such as this. But the second leg of their suit should have better grounds. To the extent that I’m willing to game this out, I’d suspect that DOJ takes the most offense with the treatment of DFW minorities and the courts take the most issue with things like the CD27/CD34 swap. Depending on how CD23 measures out in terms of retrogression, I can see that one being an issue in either setting.

The reason I’d argue LULAC lawsuits are generally stronger is that they aren’t as tainted by incumbent members of Congress who try to throw in partisan aspects of redistricting, which generally don’t hold up in court. I’d have to review how the DFW situation of 2003 held up in court last time around. At that time, it had the double benefit of being a strong community of interest argument that went hand-in-hand with an incumbent’s argument (in this case, Martin Frost). Obviously, the fracturing held up in the courthouse round at that time despite the fact that the career attorneys in DOJ found the fracturing to be out of VRA compliance. All that to say that if there’s any lawsuit that expends a great deal of time trying to argue over the division of Travis County in the latest Congressional plan, I don’t see it winning. It may be ugly, it may be blatantly partisan, it may be unfair as all get-out. But it’s legal.

Likewise, coalition districts will be harder to defend than true, 50%-plus single-minority districts. And coalition districts that rely on Anglo voters (like Doggett’s) with an overall majority Anglo population would seem to me to be out of the question unless there’s an incredibly favorable selection of judges in multiple rounds of appeals.

So keep an eye on LULAC’s lawsuit as it may be one of the strongest challenges in the courts to the present map.

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Currently there are "4 comments" on this Article:

  1. Bill Betzen says:

    Greg, I strongly agree with you regarding the LULAC lawsuit. I testified in the 6-2-11 Senate Hearing on SB4. It was a wonderful day due to the evidence for the lawsuit that was gathered. I loved the confrontations led by Senator West. We knew the result would be against us, but we piled on the evidence.

    I also agree that the lack of a Dallas district that is majority Hispanic is amazing. This week I submitted my second plan for Dallas City Council Redistricting, wplan24. It provides 6 majority Hispanic Districts out of the 14 in Dallas. See details at http://dallasredistricting2011.blogspot.com/ Three of them are over 69.8% Hispanic, one is over 67%, the fifth over 61% and the last one is 51% Hispanic. There are almost a million Hispanics in Dallas County. The supporters of SB 4 had to gerrymander heavily to avoid creating a Hispanic district in Dallas County. That is one place their redistricting plan will fall very flat.

  2. retrocon says:

    Prior to the release of the census, the conventional wisdom was that DFW could support a Hispanic district. The only trouble is — you have to be able to DRAW THE DISTRICT. Check out the Legislative Council’s DistrictViewer website and look at the plans MALDEF has submitted for its proposed Hispanic district in the Metroplex. As you can see, this is not a district likely to pass the first prong of the Gingles test — that being a sufficiently sized minority population in a reasonably compact area. Just talking about what percent of Texas’ growth is attributable to Hispanics doesn’t cut it. Look what has been attempted in the Houston area in an attempt to make an additional Hispanic district. A court is not likely to mandate that in the name of the VRA the state must create two non-performing Hispanic districts there.

    I’d venture to say the Republicans are keenly aware of how successful anyone has been in demonstrating the legal need to create additional Hispanic districts in either of those urban areas, and while they may try to push their chances to the very edge, they’re not seeing the necessity in either part of the state.

  3. retrocon says:

    After reading through the MALC / LULAC complaint, I don’t find much in it that is very compelling. I could probably write pages, but I’ll try to stick to concise points.

    First off, the document is poorly written, filled with typos (Plaontiff, Afric00an Americans), misplaced commas (According to the 2000, Census), and other such errors, nonsensical sentences given the context (Primaries in Texas require majority vote to secure election), and specious legal declarations (By not joining the surplus population from Hidalgo and Cameron TOGETHER to form a new district, the State “has chosen to violate” the county line rule).

    Second, the challenge to the use of the “defective” census will go nowhere. You know it. I know it. They know it.

    Third, they try to argue that because the Democrats in previous decades systematically underpopulated minority districts to stretch minority influence, this is somehow STATE POLICY for dealing with the census undercount, yet even though it is spelled out in the Texas Constitution, they claim there has not been an articulated state policy for the apportionment of districts to Urban Areas (sic).

    Fourth, they drop in a bombshell assertion almost as an afterthought: “Latinos and African Americans in Texas vote as a group and are politically cohesive”. Oh really? We’ll concede that both groups are predominantly in the Democratic camp, but if Latino and African American votes are essentially fungible, why have we been going to such great lengths to separate the two populations (for example, Congressional districts 18 and 29 in Harris county)?

    Fifth, oh where to go next? Maybe I’ll add more later.

    The only salient points are 1) that they think more Latino districts should have been created, 2) an attempt to insert the VRA in a position superior to the Texas Constitution county line rule, and 3) the election of Railroad Commission members from districts rather than statewide.

    … and I don’t see that they have done a very good job of making the case for any of these in their petition.

  4. blank says:

    Fourth, they drop in a bombshell assertion almost as an afterthought: “Latinos and African Americans in Texas vote as a group and are politically cohesive”. Oh really? We’ll concede that both groups are predominantly in the Democratic camp, but if Latino and African American votes are essentially fungible, why have we been going to such great lengths to separate the two populations (for example, Congressional districts 18 and 29 in Harris county)?

    I have no affiliation with MALDEF, so I don’t speak for them. However, I suspect the reason that they wouldn’t want to do away with the 18-29 split is that each group gets one district. Or more specifically, they are not cohesive in the primaries but are cohesive in the generals. That’s a pretty accurate statement, so perhaps that’s what they meant.

    They may also have been trying to preempt concerns about Bartlett v. Strickland, which knocked out cross-over districts.

    A party asserting §2 liability must show by a preponderance of the evidence that the minority population in the potential election district is greater than 50 percent. The Court has held both that §2 can require the creation of a “majority-minority” district, in which a minority group composes a numerical, working majority of the voting age population …

    So which is it? “The minority population,” possibly implying all non-majority populations? Or “a minority group,” implying only one homogenous minority population. I suspect we will find out the answer to that question soon. Otherwise, given the number of Hispanics now living in African American districts, those districts may lose their VRA protection in 2020.

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