Lawmakers Sue Texas for Redistricting Plans

     McALLEN, Texas (CN) - Gov. Rick Perry's redistricting plans cripple Latino voting strength, especially along the border, by creating Texas House districts that vary by more than 109 percent in population, state Senate districts with variances of as much as 46 percent, and congressional districts with variances of up to 48 percent, the state's Mexican American Legislative Caucus says.
     Texas' Mexican American Legislative Caucus is the oldest and largest such state legislative caucus in the nation, the group says in its complaint in Hidalgo County Court.
     Cramming more voters into minority districts can be expected to reduce minority representation in elective bodies, even if the districts do elect minority representatives. And spreading fewer white voters across wealthier districts can be expected to result in overrepresentation of whiter, wealthier voters.
     According to the 2010 Census, the population disparity between the most- and least-populated districts will be more than 109 percent for Texas House districts, 46 percent for Texas Senate districts, more than 48 percent for congressional districts, and more than 29 percent for State Board of Education districts.
     "The United States Supreme Court recently explained and articulated that the standard for compliance with the one person, one vote principle, does not provide a complete safe harbor, even when a plan has less than a 10 percent total deviation," the Caucus says. "Unless the jurisdiction can articulate a legitimate non-racial, non-political reason for its deviation, districts should be as equal in population as is practicable."
     The Caucus says Texas' unfair 2011 redistricting plan was based on faulty 2010 Census data that "severely undercounts Latinos," especially in poor areas along the Texas-Mexican border: "Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb and El Paso Counties, as well as urban areas in Dallas and Houston."
     It says the "2010 Census process and procedures resulted in substantial omissions in Latino population."
     It claims that Census Bureau was aware that "people in poor urban communities are harder to count, as are people who live in poor suburban unincorporated subdivisions primarily located along the Texas-Mexican border and often referred to as 'colonias.'"
     Colonias are largely unregulated and unincorporated areas in which poor people buy a plot of land and build a house, often without basic services such as running water, electricity or paved streets. As the communities grow, political and population pressures sometimes force nearby governments to install the services. Rates of poverty and disease, including tuberculosis, are far higher in colonias than in other areas.
     The Caucus claims that "after promoting and advertising and educating the community in these counties of the use of the 'mail-out, mail-in' counting strategy the Census Bureau announced on the day the Census was to commence that this strategy would not be employed for the 'colonias.'"
     As a result, Latinos along the state's border were undercounted by 4 to 8 percent, the Caucus claims.
     The Mexican American Legislative Caucus concludes: "The use of the inaccurate 2010 Census numbers for redistricting of Texas House of Representatives, Texas Senate, Texas State Board of Education and United States House of Representative districts will diminish the voting strength of Latino voters of Texas."
     The Caucus seeks declaratory judgment that the redistricting plans are unconstitutional, and a corrective injunction.
     It is represented by Jose Garza of San Antonio.