Redistricting Called a Blatant Gerrymander

SAN ANTONIO (CN) – Texas gerrymandered its congressional districts so that Republicans “represent a number of congressional districts that far exceed their share of the electorate” and the latest “blatant partisan gerrymander” was written to keep it that way, at the expense, above all, of minorities, voters say in a federal complaint.

     Voters from six of the new districts say Texas Senate Bill 4, enacted by the Legislature on June 15, violates the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution. They sued Gov. Rick Perry and Texas Secretary of State Hope Andrade.
     “Though minority communities accounted for 90% of [Texas’] population growth between 2000 and 2010, and Texas received four additional congressional seats because of that explosive population growth, minorities only control one of the four new districts created under the State’s Plan,” according to the complaint. “And though the Anglo population now comprises only 45 percent of Texas’ total population, Anglos control 72 percent of Texas’ congressional districts under the newly enacted map.”
     The voters say the new redistricting creates an “unlawful dilution of minority voting strength.”
     Texas received four new congressional seats based on the 2010 U.S. Census, bringing its total to 36.
     “The demographic changes that occurred in Texas and were recorded in the 2010 U.S. Census were driven by explosive growth in the state’s Hispanic and African-American populations. Hispanic growth was responsible for 65 percent of the state’s population growth, and non-Anglo population accounted for approximately 90 percent of the state’s overall population growth.
     “Today, Texas is a majority-minority state; only 45 percent of its total population is Anglo,” according to the complaint.
     But despite this demographic shift, during the regular 2011 Texas legislative session only one House committee, and one Senate committee held hearings on congressional redistricting, and no plan was presented in either hearing.
     “Legislators who represent communities of color were not permitted to discuss the plan with Republican leadership until after that leadership had already agreed to a map,” the plaintiffs say. “Governor Perry signaled that this exclusion was intentional in discussions with a Texas Tribune reporter. On May 28, 2001, the Tribune reported that Governor Perry would only call legislators back ‘when they get to an agreed bill.’ “Minority members of the house and senate, and minority members of the two legislative redistricting committees never saw the plan until it was made public on Tuesday, May 31, 2011.
     “Despite the absence of meaningful participation for officials representing minority communities, the Texas Legislature enacted the plan into law on June 15, 2011.”
     The plaintiffs say that under the new gerrymander, “only 10 districts give minority voters an effective opportunity to elect candidates of choice, one less than the previous plan. This is so despite the four additional congressional seats that Texas received as a direct result of the explosive population growth in Texas’s minority communities.”
     They add: “To effect this disenfranchisement and dilution of minority voters, the state’s plan twists electoral boundaries into incoherent configurations.”
     The plaintiffs include Marc Veasey, an African-American member of the Texas House of Representatives. They say the redistricting plan violates the Voting Rights Act by denying minorities “an equal opportunity to participate effectively in the political process and to elect candidates of their choice to the U.S. House of Representatives.” They say the gerrymander violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment “because it intentionally discriminates against African-American and Hispanic persons by denying plaintiffs and minority voters an equal opportunity to participate in the political process.”
     The plaintiffs conclude: “The State’s Plan is an intentional partisan gerrymander that thwarts majority rule and is an affront to basic democratic values in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
     They seek declaratory judgment and want Texas enjoined from enforcing the new district boundaries, or holding any elections using them.
     They are represented by Gerald Goldstein.

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