Just a quick update on redistricting events and news today.
- The Good: So far, it looks like the San Antonio panel is reversing the fragmentation of minority communities across Texas. With SD-10 (State Sen. Wendy Davis' district), the court restored a crossover district where minority communities proved they could effectively elect a candidate of their choosing. Now in CD 33, in the agreement struck by MALC and Abbott, the parties have created a new congressional district that reunites minority populations that the Legislature had separated into CD's 6, 12, 26 and 33.
This is good news as parties work to hammer out issues in the State House map. If the court reverses the considerable fragmentation of minority communities in the State House map, it could result in some major changes (and improvements) to the State House map. Ultimately, the problems with the State House map are bigger than one or two districts. There needs to be a fundamental overhaul of the State House map to correct the fragmentation of minority communities.
- The Bad:
MALC signed on with MALDEF on a version of CD-35 that runs from Travis County to Bexar County, and would as a result create a CD-25 that is Republican-dominated, rather than a cross-over district dominated by Austin minority and Democratic voters. Basically, MALC is supporting a plan that would fragment Austin and prevent our city — and, ironically, Austin's Latino community — from choosing our own representative.
Update 7:00 p.m. Clarification: it is not true that MALC endorsed the version of CD-35 that MALDEF supports — rather, MALC's lawyers asserted that the MALDEF-supported version of CD-35 is not unconstitutional. They are not officially endorsing this version of the map at this time, merely stating that legally, they do not view CD-35 in the Abbott/MALDEF incarnation to be unconstitutional. That's a big difference than what was widely reported earlier today — that MALC is endorsing this version of CD-35.
The Travis County Plaintiffs and NAACP understandably still oppose this version of CD-35 given its impact on CD-25. Their argument is that the coalition of minority voters and white voters who also choose the minority voters' candidate form a legally protected cross-over district, and can't be split apart. This is the the same argument that led to a settlement over SD-10, so ideally any Congressional settlement should in turn restore CD-25 to an Austin cross-over district.
- The Ironic: Remember Republican Paul Bettencourt, who was accused of massive voter suppression, and may have during his time as Harris County Tax Assessor illegally prevented tens of thousands of minority voters from registering? That guy? He's now on the Republican Party of Texas's redistricting committee, and has taken to the press to object to the Republican Legislature's state house map, stating that the Republican legislature's map is an “absolute waste of time because it couldn't possibly pass the Voting Rights Act.”
Now, let's hope no one is completely fooled by Bettencourt's assertion that only Harris County fails preclearance, since this is about way more than just HD-144. This is about the systematic effort by Republicans in the legislature to fragment minority communities and thus deny them the power to elect the candidates of their choice. It's just really ironic to hear Paul Bettencourt say what we've all known — and suspected him to be guilty of — Republicans are actively trying to suppress minorities' voting power!