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« Roadmap to Peace is a One Way Road | WILLisms.com | A Difference Without A Distinction »

Tweaking The Map: Texas Redistricting.

I'm sure you heard or read the news a couple of weeks ago: "High court upholds most of Texas redistricing map."

Indeed. Most of the map was upheld. Some was not. It was indeed a victory for Republicans, by and large. But it was also a minor victory for absurdity.

The current districts in question (.pdf):


The proposed new map (.pdf):


[The explanation from Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott: .pdf]

Musical chairs.

And why are we seeing these musical chairs?

Because the Supreme Court, interpreting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (in LULAC v. Perry, .pdf), mandated 6 "Remedial Latino-Opportunity Districts" in South and West Texas. Under the current map, there are only 5 such districts.

Sure, the new map likely will not add or subtract from the Republican and Democrat House delegations. Sure, the same exact four members of Congress will (likely) remain in Congress. Sure, the new map won't guarantee a new Latino House member.

But now-- and this is stunningly ridiculous-- heavily Latino districts in South/West Texas will go from having one white Democrat, one Latino Democrat, and one Latino Republican...

... to one white Democrat and one Latino Democrat.

Thus, under the new plan, Latino districts actually lose Latino representation (albeit a Republican one) in Congress. Meanwhile, a mostly white district (my district) loses a white Republican (Smith) and gains a Latino Republican (Bonilla). Both are good conservatives. That's not the issue. The required "candidate of choice" is. The required candidate of Latinos in South/West Texas: must be a Democrat, if I am understanding Justice Kennedy's opinion correctly.

It boggles the mind. It defies logic.

But the new map is really the only way forward, without pairing current incumbents or gerrymandering one party or another to 3 of 4 safe seats.

All this, because the Supreme Court of the United States of America believed it was unfair (according to the provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act) for Latinos in South/West Texas to be represented by a Latino Republican. A Latino Republican (Henry Bonilla) couldn't possibly be the Latino district's "candidate of choice." But-- and stay with me here-- a white Democrat (Lloyd Doggett) could be.

The only fortunate thing about this whole fiasco is that the Latino Democrat, Henry Cuellar, is one of the few worthy Democrats in the entire House of Representatives. Not that that even really matters. It's just nice to know.

The most unfortunate chapter in this entire saga is that the House of Representatives just reauthorized the Voting Rights Act, as is, 390-33, after rejecting four reasonable amendments (#1: Norwood of Georgia; #2: Gohmert of Texas; #3: King of Iowa; and #4: Westmoreland of Georgia).

Ugh. The Voting Wrongs Act. This is 2006, not 1965.

No racial group, in 2006, ought to be guaranteed any particular partisan (or racial) representation in Congress. This ought to be a bipartisan no-brainer.

The Voting Rights Act hurts minorities by relegating them to a single acceptable party. It protects the broken status quo in many inner cities, in terms of failing government-monopolized schools, high crime rates with no end in sight, and notoriously rampant corruption.

The Voting Rights Act hurts Republicans by denying many minorities even the remote possibility of Republican representation in Congress, by branding a label of "unacceptable" (insinuation: the GOP is racist) on GOP candidates, and by creating a self-fulfilling prophesy of mostly white people voting for Republicans, Republicans representing mostly white people, and so on.

The Voting Rights Act hurts Democrats by concentrating minorities into districts such that surrounding districts-- and more of them-- become increasingly white and increasingly Republican. The Voting Rights Act, ironically, nets Republicans a few extra safe seats in the House of Representatives, because of this. Meanwhile, the Democrats are burdened and tarnished with embarrassments such as Georgia's Cynthia McKinney, a product of the Voting Rights Act.

The Voting Rights Act hurts us all by producing fewer contested Congressional seats. It protects race-based political machines in cities across the country. It is polarizing. It is divisive. It is racist. It is very antiquated.

Most of all, it runs counter to the very concept of an American melting pot. The Voting Rights Act contradicts and undermines Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream of a colorblind America, where people are judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

But, politically, opposing the Voting Rights Act is poison, so only 33 Republican House members had the guts to oppose it; Republicans couldn't even muster enough votes to make a few common sense, timely amendments to the thing.

Logistically and legally, the new plan is not a sure thing just yet. And even so, the details on special primary re-votes are-- at this point-- just hypothetical. It appears that four districts, including my own, will require recontested primary elections. If precedent is followed, we may have our primary-- but only for the U.S. House-- on election day in November, with the general election coinciding with already-scheduled runoff elections in December. Or maybe we'll have a special primary election pre-November. It's all speculative at this point.

It also may mean that Club For Growth-backed Democrat Henry Cuellar will once again have to fend off Kos-backed Democrat Ciro Rodriguez.

And don't even get me started on United States District Judge Sam Sparks' "DeLay Must Remain On Ballot" decision, now in appeals.


Comments are not functioning very well right now, but commenter Ironman asks about the Bonilla/Cuellar plan:

Didn;t Cuellar and Bonilla submit a better map?

Posted by: Ironman at July 18, 2006 06:29 AM

Here's my reply, that really would normally just go under the comments section, if it were working properly:

They did, and it's pretty good. But it does not remedy what Justice Kennedy thought was wrong about the current map. It does not reunite Laredo (and Webb County) into one district.

Apparently Laredo has a right to one-- and only one-- member of the House. It's apparently in the Constitution.

So, yeah, the Cuellar/Bonilla/Smith plan is great (and bipartisan), but it doesn't fix what was allegedly one of the big problems with the current map.

Posted by Will Franklin · 17 July 2006 11:08 PM


Didn;t Cuellar and Bonilla submit a better map?

Posted by: Ironman at July 18, 2006 06:29 AM

President Bush notwithstanding, the best solution to this and similar problems across the country would be to NOT renew the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Posted by: Bat One at July 18, 2006 04:15 PM

What about the fact that Travis County, arguably the most Democratic county in the state, is now going to be represented by three Republicans? By removing Doggett from the Austin area, Perry and his hacks are attempting to finish the DeLay-led gerrymander-to-correct-a-gerrymander that brought on this case in the first place, and in the process are managing to distort the political will of the residents of the fourth-largest city in the state. Say what you will, but this whole "remedial" map smells a bit off to me.

Posted by: Dan at July 21, 2006 12:11 AM