Politics
1:59 pm
Thu January 26, 2012

What’s Happening With Texas Redistricting?

With a flurry of legal actions surrounding Texas redistricting efforts, it's easy to get a little confused.

The confusion, in part, can be blamed on the different courts in play, each playing a part in the battle over the districts redrawn by the Texas Legislature in 2011.

Late last week, the Supreme Court threw out re-redrawn district maps drafted by a San Antonio district court. The San Antonio court claimed the Legislature’s new districts deprived minority voters of the right to equitable representation; the Supreme Court held that while there might be such problems with the Legislature’s maps, the San Antonio court should use the Legislature’s map as a blueprint for further revision, instead of drafting their own. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has since called for the San Antonio court to conclude their work quickly.

But while the Supreme Court has issued their decision in fight between the dueling maps, there’s another ongoing court challenge to the maps. At issue here is the constitutionality of the Legislature’s map, and arguments before a three-judge federal court in Washington D.C. have just concluded. The State of Texas is defending the map complaints from the U.S. Department of Justice and Texas based African-American and Latino advocacy groups.

McClatchy News reports one of Texas’ star witnesses conceded a point to map opponents today:

The state's expert witness, John Alford of Rice University, was on the stand to defend the districts drawn by the Texas Legislature for the Texas House, Texas Senate and U.S. House under the Voting Rights Act.

Alford surprised [Dem. State Sen. Wendy Davis]' attorney during questioning by agreeing that the reconfiguration of Davis' District 10 into four parts hurt minority voters and turned back the clock on the ability of blacks and Hispanics to vote for a candidate they prefer.

Davis' attorney, Gerry Hebert, asked Alford, "In 2008, black and Latino voters in District 10 demonstrated the ability to elect the candidate of their choice?"

Alford replied "yes" and that the candidate was Davis.

"Would you agree," Hebert continued, "that under the state's proposed plan that the ability of minority voters in District 10 to elect the preferred candidate was retrogressed?"

"Gerry," Alford said, "I couldn't agree with you more."

The Associated Press notes closing arguments in the case are expected next week.