Greg Abbott's Dishonest Op-Ed On Voter ID and Redistricting

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Originally posted at the Lone Star Project:

Over the last several days, Greg Abbott has engaged in a “CYA” exercise to hide his failure and incompetence as the Attorney General of Texas during the ongoing litigation involving redistricting and Voter ID. He failed to properly advise Texas legislative leaders to adopt fair and legal voting laws. Now he refuses to take responsibility for repeated defeats in the federal courts as he has defended these discriminatory laws. Instead, Abbott is obscuring the facts with a political attack on President Obama and making dishonest statements about the law and the pending litigation.

Below the jump is a recent Op-Ed by Greg Abbott published in the Washington Times. The Op-Ed is filled with false and otherwise misleading statements that while breathtaking in the sheer volume of lies, are easily rebutted. The rebuttals are included in after each of Abbott’s paragraphs. 

ABBOTT: Obama’s scheme to take over Texas
Overruling the Supreme Court on voting rights is the start

"The Obama administration’s interference in Texas’ redistricting and voter-ID litigation does not protect voting rights. It protects the Democratic Party. Recall that just a few months ago, high-ranking Obama operatives launched a campaign to “turn Texas blue.” The administration’s foray into Texas voting rights litigation is just another page in that political playbook."

REBUTTAL: Attorney General Abbott’s column leads with a series of lies – sometimes overt and sometimes by omission.

Racial discrimination in Texas is not a relic of 50 years ago, 20 years ago, or even 5 years ago. Just last year, a Federal Court ruled that Texas Republican leaders engaged in intentional discrimination.

Abbott fails to disclose that a three-judge Federal District Court (including two who were appointed by a Republican president) unanimously ruled that Texas Republican leaders adopted redistricting plans that intentionally discriminated against minority Texans. In their ruling, the judges stated flatly, “The parties have provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need, to address here.”

It is Abbott who has pursued redistricting relentlessly by using discrimination to achieve his partisan goals. The plaintiffs in the redistricting litigation pending in Texas are African American and Latino citizens and minority advocacy groups. The Democratic Party of Texas is NOT a defendant in the case. The Obama Administration would have no reason to intervene in redistricting and voter ID litigation in Texas had Greg Abbott properly advised the Texas Legislature to draw fair and legal redistricting plans and adopt a legal voter ID bill. Instead, Greg Abbott advised Republican legislators to engage in an intentionally discriminatory redistricting process and to adopt a voter ID plan that discriminates against Latinos and other minorities. In the meantime, Abbott has spent millions in taxpayer funds to defend these illegal plans. Greg Abbott all but invited the Department of Justice to intervene in Texas. He and the Republican leadership in Texas are squarely to blame for the federal intervention.

"In redistricting, the Obama administration has aligned itself with Democratic state representatives and Democratic members of Congress who already are suing Texas. It is no surprise then that the legal position of President Obama’s attorneys seeks to improve Democratic candidates’ prospects. Of course, Mr. Obama’s attorneys conceal this partisan agenda with lofty rhetoric about minority voting rights. But it is no coincidence that every change to district lines supported by the administration benefits Democrats. Behind the empty allegations of racial discrimination lies one goal — helping Democrats in 2014."

REBUTTAL: Again, the Attorney General intentionally seeks to mislead readers by failing to acknowledge that the lead plaintiffs in the redistricting litigation are minority advocacy groups such as the League of United Latin American Citizens, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and the NAACP. He also states that the Department of Justice is advocating for specific alternative maps. That is simply untrue. The Department of Justice is advocating against a legislative process and Republican maps that were drawn with an intent to discriminate against African American and Latino Texans. Additionally, it is Attorney General Abbott who has adopted an entirely partisan line of argument to justify his support for the discriminatory maps. In fact, his office’s main defense of the discriminatory process and the maps it produced is that state leaders were trying to help Republicans and hurt Democrats.

"The president’s partisan use of the Voting Rights Act actually hurts many minority voters in Texas. With the administration’s support, redistricting litigation already has unseated Texas state Reps. Jose Aliseda, Raul Torres, Aaron Pena and John Garza, as well as U.S. Rep. Quico Canseco. These representatives — all Republicans — won in 2010 in predominantly Latino districts. In 2011, however, the Obama administration and other partisan interest groups succeeded in getting a court to draw district lines so that only a Democrat could win these seats. As a direct result, all of these Republican Latino representatives lost their seats in 2012 except for Mr. Aliseda, who chose not to run for re-election. His district had been dismantled altogether at Democrats‘ request."

REBUTTAL: Greg Abbott has served as a state district judge, as a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court and almost 12 years as state attorney general. We must assume that he understands who is, and who is not, protected under our voting rights laws. In light of this, we can conclude that he is misleading readers when he implies that Republican office holders, because they are Latino themselves, are protected. He knows it is not that straightforward. Our voting rights laws protect African American and Latino voters and elected officials who are the candidates of choice of minority voters. None of the elected officials cited by Abbott are the choice of Latino voters. In every case, these candidates received far less than 50 percent support from Latino voters. All of them were elected as a result of votes from Anglo Republicans. That is why in nearly every instance, Abbott supported maps that weakened the voting strength of Latinos in these districts. One of the key documents cited by the federal court when it ruled the GOP congressional plan intentionally discriminated against minority voters was the so-called “nudge” memo where a Republican operative describes the effort to hold the Latino population at a relatively high level while reducing the actual Latino voting strength in districts. Greg Abbott knows that in order to improve the chances of any Republican candidate – whether Anglo, Latino or African American – he must weaken the voting strength of minority citizens.

"The administration’s approach reveals the Democrats‘ fear that Republican candidates were making inroads with Latino voters. Democrats could never “turn Texas blue” if that trend continued, so they got the courts to draw district lines that guarantee Democratic victory in predominantly Latino areas. What about the rights of Latino voters who preferred representatives such as Mr. Aliseda, you might ask? They apparently don’t matter to this administration."

REBUTTAL: Actually, as Greg Abbott knows, it has been the actions of the Republican legislature and the Attorney General himself who demonstrate ignorance and fear of minority voters. Senate Redistricting Committee Chair Kel Seliger was not able to come close to giving the correct percentage of African American or Latino voters in his own Senate district.

As the Latino and African American populations in Texas continue to grow at a much faster rate than the Anglo population, Abbott and Republican leaders have moved to adopt redistricting plans and voting laws that reduce the voting strength of Texas minority citizens. Prior to the release of the 2010 census, Republican leaders in Texas had not asked the federal courts to overturn the US Voting Rights Act.

Attacking the US Voting Rights Act is a tactic that allows Republicans to restrict and suppress minority voting without fear of oversight. The share of the Latino vote going to Republican candidates in Texas has dropped in recent elections. Abbott also knows that as the number of Latino votes cast increases, the percentage share that goes to Republican candidates typically drops. In 2012, Republican candidates in Texas typically received 20 to 40 percent of the Latino vote and 3 to 10 percent of the African American vote. Greg Abbott is using dishonest rhetoric to obscure the fact that Texas Republicans have chosen to suppress and restrict the ability of minority Texans to cast ballots rather than working to earn the support of Latino voters.

"Similarly, polling consistently shows that Latino Texans strongly support voter-ID requirements, another target of the administration’s litigious political strategy. Electoral fraud harms voters of all races, and voter ID is a simple, nondiscriminatory way to help stop it. Getting an ID is free of charge for any Texan who needs one. Voter-ID laws already have been upheld by the Supreme Court. Crying “voter suppression” is nothing but a cynical scare tactic designed to mobilize Democratic partisans, none of whom ever will be prevented from voting by these laws. The administration’s absurd claim that this common-sense fraud prevention device is actually a racist plot to prevent minorities from voting would be comical if it weren’t so depressing to see an American president stoop to that level."

REBUTTAL: Again, a three-judge US Federal District Courtruled that the Republican-adopted Texas Voter ID law discriminates against Latino Texans (and other minorities in Texas). That is not a scare tactic; it is a formal judicial ruling. The opposition to the Texas law is not opposition to anyvoter ID law. Many other states, including southern states like Georgia, have adopted voter ID laws that have been found not to discriminate against minority citizens. Texas Republican legislative leaders, with assistance and defense from Greg Abbott, chose to adopt a voter ID law that does discriminate against minority citizens in Texas. Rather than call on legislators to change the law and eliminate the discriminatory provisions, Greg Abbott has chosen to spend millions in Texas taxpayer dollars to defend the discriminatory law.

"The president’s attempt to put Texas’ elections under his thumb also disrupts the constitutional balance between federal and state governments. The Constitution makes elections the states’ business, not the federal government’s. The Supreme Court’s recent Shelby County, Ala., v. Holder decision threw out a requirement that certain states “preclear” their voting laws with the Department of Justice."

REBUTTAL: Abbott’s experience as a judge and an Attorney General means that he is intentionally misleading the public rather than simply making errors. The recent Supreme Court decision in Shelby County v Holder did not eliminate the obligation of states like Texas to comply with the provisions of the US Voting Rights Act, nor did it reverse the findings of intentional discrimination by Texas Republican leaders. The Supreme Court threw out the formula in the Voting Rights Act that had been used to determine which states and other localities must have voting laws reviewed by federal authorities. The litigationpending in Texas concerns provisions of the Voting Rights Act that are still valid and enforceable, and were not impacted by the Supreme Court's recent Shelby County ruling.

"On top of that, putting states like Texas back under federal oversight is unnecessary to protect voting rights. Although the Supreme Court has ended the preclearance requirement, the protections of the Voting Rights Act still apply. Anyone claiming discrimination by a state voting law can sue in federal court. In fact, that is exactly what has happened in the Texas redistricting litigation, where the Obama administration injected itself. If the courts find that a state law violates the Voting Rights Act, the law will not be enforced. These lawsuits cost the aggrieved voter nothing. There is a sizable cottage industry of lawyers who gladly take any legitimate — and many illegitimate — cases at no charge to the aggrieved voter."

REBUTTAL: Abbott misstates the ruling of the Supreme Court. The Court invalidated the formula used to determine the specific states subject to federal review before voting laws may be implemented. It did not say that states, like Texas, who have engaged in recent intentional discrimination against minority citizens, cannot be required by a court to have voting laws reviewed. Moreover, it is Greg Abbott who initiated the litigation in Washington, DC that resulted in a finding of intentional discrimination by the federal court there. Additionally, Greg Abbott has spent millions of dollars in Texas taxpayer funds defending the discriminatory plans. In fact, he has paid outside legal counsel alone over $1.5 million. If there is a cottage industry of lawyers making money off of redistricting litigation, it centers around Abbott. He is feeding this industry, and he is using Texas taxpayer dollars to do so.

"After the Shelby County decision, the Voting Rights Act still works. It just no longer imposes an onerous and costly preclearance requirement that disrupts the state-federal balance of power enshrined in the Constitution. Instead of allowing the Voting Rights Act to work in a way the Constitution allows, the Obama administration is sowing racial divide to score cheap political points. The president is using the legal system as a sword to wage partisan battles rather than a shield to protect voting rights. This overreaching action undermines the Voting Rights Act and the rule of law. Texas will not tolerate it. So far, neither will the Supreme Court."

REBUTTAL: As his record on voting rights litigation shows, Greg Abbott is neither a credible nor a competent legal counsel for the State of Texas.

Abbott has spent millions in Texas taxpayer funds to help adopt and then defend redistricting plans and voting restrictions that have been ruled discriminatory. At nearly every stage of the legal process, he has lost. The pending litigation in Texas will be resolved over the next few months. Because of the discriminatory tactics, relentless partisanship and overall incompetence of Greg Abbott and the Attorney General’s office, it is likely that Abbott will continue to lose most – if not all – of his arguments in federal court.


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