Amidst the tumult of a twerking Miley Cyrus and the disheartening news of another potential foreign endeavor, it is difficult to find the stories that have an immediate impact on our political lives. Amanda Voeller of The Daily Texan has been covering a compelling political saga that documents our state's kleptocratic polity.
In 2011, a Republican dominated Texas legislature re-carved our congressional (both national and state) districts, disenfranchising thousands of black and Hispanic voters.The new districts slice minority votes with reckless abandon, making it harder for blocs to coalesce and elect candidates that cater to their needs. According to the Huffington Post Abbott qualified the constitutionality of the changes despite what he termed “incidental effects on minorities.”
To read more about how redistricting will adversely affect us below the jump.Abbot's gerrymandering antics are not the only policy change that has been leveled against Texas voters. A few months ago the Supreme Court knocked down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which designates a handful of (mostly southern) states to federal preclearances for any voting policy changes. Perhaps the decision was a bit too soon as Governor Perry immediately enacted the most stringent voter ID laws in the nation. These are the same laws that federal judges and Attorney General Eric Holder posited as “strict, unforgivable burdens on the poor.”
I'm embarrassed–I'm embarrassed that I live in a state where our Attorney General can brazenly file a court brief that explicitly states, “redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party's electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats.” I'm embarrassed that United States Attorney General Eric Holder has to ride down on his white horse and sue Texas for draconian Voter ID measures and redistricting plans. Most of all, I'm embarrassed that we're afraid to talk about what this political maneuver really is; a sordid attempt to isolate segments of the Texas electorate.
Don't get me wrong, this is not a diatribe against our state, just our state's politics. However, there are some Texas politicians around who are willing to fight for the rights of those pushed to the peripheries by these changes. The now iconic state senator, Wendy Davis, won a crucial federal case against Greg Abbott by utilizing Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The San Antonio federal judges ruled that the 2011 redistricting that threatened to dismantle effective coalitions of black and Latino voters in Davis' district was invalid. The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund is also engaged in legal battles across the state to fight redistricting measures.
Why aren't people talking about this? A few months ago when abortion access measures were on the docket, progressives, moderates, and even some conservatives vociferously defended the right of choice. However, when minorities and Texas' massive poor population are having their votes discredited you can barely hear a peep in Texas media discourse. As Texas progressives, what does this say about our political priorities? Our privilege? It seems that structurally our politics are in some ways akin to the conservatives in the Texas legislature in that we implicitly value some populations more than others. I can only hope that Texans continue to open their eyes to the rampant affronts to democratic life going on in cities and towns across the