DOJ Denies Preclearance for Texas House, Congressional Maps

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Today, the Department of Justice announced that the Texas redistricting maps for the Texas House of Representatives and Congressional districts did not meet pre-clearance. (The SBOE and Senate maps did, which sucks, more on that later.)

Basically, receiving pre-clearance means that the map doesn't unfairly discriminate on the basis of race, color, or a “language minority group.” The DOJ's decision suggests that they, too, see problems in these two maps, which do not reflect the fact that Texas's immense population growth over the last decade has been due to minority groups.

In the meantime, here are statements received by Burnt Orange Report on the DOJ's decision:

State Rep. Carol Alvarado Statement on the Dept. of Justice's Response to Texas House & Congressional  Redistricting Plan

“By not granting pre-clearance, the Department of Justice has come to the same conclusion that many of my colleagues and I reached months ago – that the maps blatantly ignored the realities of our population growth by diluting and diminishing the impact minority voters have on elections.  With over 89% of Texas' growth being attributable to minority groups, the DOJ must ensure that every community has an equal opportunity to elect the candidates of their choice.”

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Rep. Doggett Statement in Response to the Department of Justice's Answer Filed Today Regarding Texas Congressional Redistricting

“Like everyone who has studied it, except Governor Perry and his cohorts, the Justice Department simply recognized that this map is illegal.  Communities of interest across this State have been wrongly divided by the Governor's crooked lines.  Whether or not proposed CD 35, which contains the largest number of my current constituents, is specifically declared illegal, I believe that it may well be changed by necessary corrections to adjacent congressional districts.”

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More statements below the jump.

The following is a statement from Texas Democratic Party spokesperson, Rebecca Acuña, on the DOJ's Refusal to Grant Preclearance to Texas House and Congressional Maps:

“It's a shame that Governor Perry and his Republican colleagues are more interested in protecting their own political futures than the voting rights of their constituents. We're thankful that the Department of Justice stepped in to protect the interests of Texans.

The Perry-signed state house and congressional maps attempted to diminish the political voice of the communities responsible for the state's population growth. The maps are a desperate attempt by Republicans to latch on to power by any means necessary.”

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About Author

Katherine Haenschen

Katherine Haenschen is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas, where she studies political participation on digital media. She previously managed successful candidate, issue, voter registration, and GOTV campaigns in Central Texas. She is also a fan of UCONN women's basketball and breakfast tacos.

7 Comments

  1. Good news, but far from the end of the story
    Texas specifically did not apply to DoJ for pre-clearance. With Democrats in charge, they didn't think that they'd get their gerrymander through. Instead, they applied to a federal court in DC, which is reviewing the case. The DOJ opinion basically advised the court that, in DoJ's opinion, the SBOE and Senate maps are legally OK but the Texas House and Congressional maps aren't.  This almost certainly means that the court will approve the SBOE and State Senate maps, but nothing is official until they do so.

    I think that DoJ got it right, by the way. The SBOE map is highly partisan, e.g., splitting Travis County in half, but it didn't do anything that ran afoul of the Voting Rights Act. It's largely the same map as from 10 years ago, with adjustments for population shifts. With no new gerrymanders, its approval was a foregone conclusion.

    The Senate map was nastier, with more explicit gerrymandering to try to get rid of Wendy Davis (and a gratuitous splitting of Travis County), but from what I've heard the legal arguments against it were fairly weak. No surprises in DoJ's opinion.

    As for the unbelievably awful Congressional and Texas House maps, we'll soon learn exactly what DoJ objects to, and what changes are likely to be required.  They promised to provide details within 24 hours. It should be interesting reading, but remember that the courts, and not DoJ, have the last word.  

  2. Still an advocate of a redistricting commission instead
    I have always been an advocate of a redistricting commission instead of letting legislators, both Republican and Democrat, mess with the districts. I have to say that after I dug into it recently for a blog entry did I find that the results coming back from some of the states with redistricting commissions is very promising. My example in CA in the 38th is a good indicator this is the way to go instead of letting the legislature muck with the maps.

    From an Express-News article one of the state attorneys made a very telling statement about protecting incumbents. “Rodriguez also questioned state lawyer David Mattax about how far the state could go to protect incumbents, pointing out that the redistricting plan created a new district for Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, that was significantly different than the district he initially won as a Democrat. Mattax argued that the state was exercising its prerogative to use 'traditional redistricting principles,' including incumbent protection, and that Peña's seat wasn't an abuse of the privilege because his new district was in the same county as his old district,” said the article.

    As I found out, by leveraging a redistricting commission, not only do the maps seem to withstand court challenge but they also create more competitive districts. While I would prefer Democrats in those seats, I would even more prefer competitive districts throughout Texas, especially while we try to “reset” the state to a more even keel. The commissions also seem to lean towards geographically compact districts and avoid fracturing, as you can seem by the CA 38th.

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