Saturday, March 11, 2017

District Court Finds Some Texas Congressional Districts Violate Voting Rights Act or Constitution

The long awaited lengthy opinion on the Texas Congressional plan, with a 2-1 vote, the dissent by Judge Smith, if stands at the Supreme Court, could lead to the creation of more Texas Minority Opportunity Districts.

From the Majority opinion:

Plaintiffs have established a § 2 violation, both in terms of Intent and Effect, in South/West Texas. Plaintiffs have shown that Seven compact Majority-HCVAP Districts could and should be drawn there that would substantially address the § 2 Rights of Hispanic Voters in South/West Texas, including Nueces County. Defendants’ decision to place Nueces County Hispanic Voters in an Anglo District had the effect and was intended to Dilute their Opportunity to Elect their Candidate of choice.

Meanwhile, Race predominated in the drawing of CD35, and Defendants’ decision to place Majority in Travis County was not to comply with the VRA but to Minimize the Number of Democrat Districts in the plan overall. Plaintiffs have established a Shaw-type Equal Protection Violation with regard to CD35. Plaintiffs also establish a Shaw-type Equal Protection Violation with regard to CD23. In addition, Defendants’ manipulation of Latino Voter Turnout and Cohesion in CD23 denied Latino Voters Equal Opportunity and had the intent and effect of Diluting Latino Voter opportunity. Nueces County Hispanics and Hispanic voters in CD23 have proved their § 2 Results and Intentional Vote Dilution Claims. The configurations of CD23, CD27, and CD35 in Plan C185 are therefore invalid.

Plaintiffs fail to proffer a Demonstration Plan accompanied by sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Additional Compact Minority Districts could be drawn in DFW or Houston, taking into account traditional Redistricting Principles and Communities of Interest. However, they are not precluded from raising § 2 Results claims with regard to Plan C235 during the Trial on that Plan. Plaintiffs have proved Intentional Vote Dilution through Packing and Cracking in DFW and also establish a Shaw-type Racial Gerrymandering Claim with regard to CD26, but not CD6. However, they fail to prove Intentional Vote dilution in the Houston area, and fail to prove that map-drawers acted with Racially Discriminatory purpose when drawing the Districts represented by the African-American Congresspersons.

Judge Smith dissented, believing that the case is moot. But he reserved his sharpest words for the U.S. Department of Justice’s intervention in this case:

And then there is the United States, appearing through attorneys from the Department of Justice. I have no criticism of their knowledge of the law, and their zeal is, to say the least, more than adequate. But they entered these proceedings with arrogance and condescension. One of the Department’s lawyers even exhibited her contempt for Texas and its representatives and her disdain for these proceedings by regularly rolling her eyes at State witnesses’ answers that she did not like, and she amused herself by chewing gum while court was in session.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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