2003 Texas redistricting

2003 Texas redistricting

The 2003 Texas redistricting refers to a highly controversial congressional redistricting plan appealed to the United States Supreme Court in "League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry". On June 28, 2006, the Supreme Court upheld the statewide redistricting as Constitutional, but struck down Congressional District 23 as racial gerrymandering in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Overview

After Republicans won control of the Texas state legislature in 2002, for the first time in 130 years, they set their sights on establishing a majority of House of Representatives seats held by their party. After the 2002 election, Democrats had a 17-15 edge in House seats representing Texas, although the state's voters voted for Republicans in congressional races by an 18-14 margin. [http://clerk.house.gov/members/electionInfo/2002/Table.htm] . After a protracted partisan struggle, the legislature enacted a new congressional districting map, Plan 1374C, introduced in the Texas House by Representative Phil King of Weatherford. In the 2004 congressional elections, Republicans won 21 seats to the Democrats' 11. [http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?court=US&vol=000&invol=05-204] In 2006 Republicans won 19 seats, and Democrats won 13. [http://www.dfw.com/mld/startelegram/news/state/15963684.htm]

The resulting redistricting effort was extremely controversial, particularly because of the role played by Tom DeLay. On June 28, 2006, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion that threw out portions of the redistricting, requiring lawmakers to adjust boundaries to conform with the Court's decision, though the ruling did not immediately threaten Republican gains as a result of the redistricting. [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/28/washington/28cnd-scotus.html?_r=1&oref=slogin] .

2000–2001 evolution and DeLay's role

Redistricting in Texas was traditionally done once every ten years, soon after the National Census. A redistricting occurred in 1991, when the Democrats held both the governor's seat (with Ann Richards) and a legislative majority. By 2000, Republican George W. Bush was governor, with Republican Rick Perry as his lieutenant governor.

After the 2000 elections, however, Democrats maintained their majority in the Texas legislature. In 2001, the Democrats and Republicans were unable to agree on a new district map to correspond with the 2000 census. Per state law, under these circumstances, the matter could be submitted to a panel of judges. The Republican minority recommended this solution. Accordingly, the matter was forwarded for this type of review, and the judges drew a new map, which maintained a 17 to 15 Democratic majority. [http://www.supremecourtus.gov/opinions/05pdf/05-204.pdf] , League of United Latin American Citizens, et al. v. Perry, Governor of Texas, et al. 2006] Fact|date=April 2007 Under the Texas Constitution, the Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB) convenes only when the state legislature is unable to approve a redistricting plan in the first legislative session following the National Census. In June, 2001, the redistricting task passed to the LRB after the state legislature failed to pass a redistricting plan.cite book
last = Bickerstaff
first = Steve
title = Lines in the Sand: Congressional Redistricting in Texas and the Downfall of Tom Delay
publisher = University of Texas Press
date = 2007
pages = 46
id = 0292714742
]

In September, 2001, Texas Representative Tom DeLay organized Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), a political action committee designed to gather campaign funds for Republican candidates throughout Texas. TRMPAC was modeled closely after DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC), a federal-level organization created to raise funds for Republicans during the 2000 national elections.cite book
last = Bickerstaff
first = Steve
title = Lines in the Sand: Congressional Redistricting in Texas and the Downfall of Tom Delay
publisher = University of Texas Press
date = 2007
pages = 49
id = 0292714742
] Simultaneously, as has been well documented in the media, DeLay played a key role in the ongoing Texas redistricting effort.

In 2002, a Republican majority was elected to the state legislature. Under the encouragement of Tom DeLay, Governor Rick Perry and the Republican majority tried to make redistricting a major issue during the 2003 legislative session. By the end of the term, however, the issue had not been settled. As a result, Perry called for special summer sessions.

In summer 2003, the state legislature attempted once more to reapportion the state's congressional districts. Democratic party members from the two state houses, lacking the votes to defeat the redistricting plan, fled the state for nearby Oklahoma and New Mexico. In doing so, the 53 members made it impossible for a quorum to exist, thus blocking the redistricting efforts. The absent Democratic representatives became collectively known as the "Killer D's". Despite this, redistricting plans went through and the Republican majority in the Texas congressional delegation grew after the 2004 elections as a result.

An article in the March 6, 2006, issue of "The New Yorker" magazine, written by Jeffrey Toobin, quoted Texas's junior Republican Senator John Cornyn as saying, "Everybody who knows Tom knows that he's a fighter and a competitor, and he saw an opportunity to help the Republicans stay in power in Washington." Toobin also noted that DeLay left Washington and returned to Texas to oversee the project while final voting was underway in the state legislature, and that "several times during the long days of negotiating sessions, DeLay personally shuttled proposed maps among House and Senate offices in Austin." cite news
last = Toobin
first = Jeffrey
title = Drawing the Line — Will Tom Delay's Redistricting in Texas Cost Him His Seat?
work = The New Yorker
date = 2006-02-06
url = http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2006/03/06/060306fa_fact
accessdate = 2006-02-06
]

"Texas Monthly" editor Paul Burka, writing in the magazine's May 2006 issue, labelled the measure as "DeLay’s midcensus congressional redistricting plan" and stated "in order to increase his Republican majority in Congress, he [DeLay] resorted to a midcensus redistricting plan." [http://www.texasmonthly.com/csc/486feature.php]

Justice Department involvement

In December 2005, the "Washington Post" reported, "Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo" uncovered by the newspaper. [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/01/AR2005120101927.html] The document, endorsed by six Justice Department attorneys, said "the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts."

"The State of Texas has not met its burden in showing that the proposed congressional redistricting plan does not have a discriminatory effect," the memo noted. The article also stated that Justice Department lawyers "found that Republican lawmakers and state officials who helped craft the proposal were aware it posed a high risk of being ruled discriminatory compared with other options." Nonetheless, Texas legislators proceeded with the new plan "because it would maximize the number of Republican federal lawmakers in the state," the "Post" said about the document.

Criticism of the plan

Democrats criticized the 2003 redistricting, citing the lack of precedent for redistricting twice in a decade, considering it had already been done in 2002, and argued that it was being done for purely political gain and was therefore gerrymandering. Statements by some Republicans lent support to this claim, since many publicly stated their expectations of picking up several Republican seats. Some minority groups argued the plan was unconstitutional, as it would dilute their influence and possibly violate the "one-person-one-vote" principle of redistricting. Republicans counterargued, however, that since most voters in the state were Republicans, it was appropriate that the party have a majority in the federal legislative delegation.

The results of the 2004 elections brought Texas Republicans a majority of House seats by a 21-11 margin. The state voted for the Republican presidential candidate by a margin of 61-38 (although George W. Bush was a popular former governor), which led the party to claim that the problem of unfair representation in Texas had been remedied.

2006 Supreme Court review

The Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion on the case in "League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry" on June 28, 2006. While the Court said states are free to redistrict however often they like, the justices invalidated Texas's District 23, citing a Section 2 violation of the Voting Rights Act. This decision will require lawmakers to adjust boundaries in line with the Court's ruling. [http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/28/washington/28cnd-scotus.html?_r=1&oref=slogin]

On June 29, 2006, a U. S. District Judge as part of a three judge panel, under an order from the U. S. Court of Appeals, overseeing the redistricting ordered that both sides should submit proposed maps by July 14, respond to their opponents' maps by July 21, and that oral arguments will occur on August 3. [http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/4013182.html]

Democrats targeted by redistricting

The 2003 redistricting targeted ten white, Democratic incumbents avoiding all seven minority Democratic incumbents.cite book
last = Bickerstaff
first = Steve
title = Lines in the Sand: Congressional Redistricting in Texas and the Downfall of Tom Delay
publisher = University of Texas Press
date = 2007
pages = 98–101
id = 0292714742
]

* Max Sandlin
* Jim Turner
* Ralph Hall
* Nick Lampson
* Lloyd Doggett
* Chet Edwards
* Charles Stenholm
* Martin Frost
* Chris Bell
* Gene Green

In addition, the redistricting sought to protect Hispanic Republican Henry Bonilla, who had faced a stiff challenge from conservative Democrat Henry Cuellar in 2002, and neutralize liberal Democrat Ciro Rodriguez. This was done by putting Cuellar's base county of Laredo in the district held by Rodriguez. Thus instead of Bonilla being challenged again by Cuellar, Cuellar instead ran against Rodriguez in 2004, defeating him in the Democratic primary.

This was a similar strategy to the one employed against Chris Bell, who was placed in a majority-black district in which an African-American Democrat would be more likely to win than the Caucasian Bell.

As of 2008, only Hall, Doggett, Edwards, Green and Lampson still hold their Congressional posts (Hall switched party affiliation to Republican in 2004, and Lampson spent two years outside of Congress). The others were defeated by their Republican challengers in the 2004 elections. Chris Bell ran unsuccessfully for Governor in 2006. Ciro Rodriguez returned to Congress in 2006, running against the Republican Bonilla and successfully defeating him in a runoff election.

ee also

*Call of the house
*Gerrymandering
*Texas Eleven
*Texas Five

References

* [http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060306fa_fact "Drawing the Line — Will Tom Delay's Redistricting in Texas Cost Him His Seat?"] by Jeffrey Toobin, "The New Yorker" magazine, March 6, 2006, pp. 32–37.
* [http://www.slate.com/id/2137210/?nav=navoa "Mess With Texas — the Supreme Court Has Another Look at Partisan Gerrymanders"] , by Dahlia Lithwick, "Slate", March 1, 2006.
* [http://writ.news.findlaw.com/commentary/20051206_posner.html "Evidence of Political Manipulation at the Justice Department: How Tom DeLay's Redistricting Plan Avoided Voting Rights Act Disapproval"] , by Mark Posner, FindLaw.com Legal News, December 6, 2005.
* [http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/01/AR2005120101927.html "Justice Staff Saw Texas Districting As Illegal"] , "Washington Post", December 2, 2005, page A01
* [http://www.wsws.org/articles/2003/may2003/tex-m17.shtml "Republicans enlisted Department of Homeland Security in Texas political fight"] , WSW News, May 17, 2003.

External links

* [http://docket.medill.northwestern.edu/archives/003284.php Northwestern University overview on pending Supreme Court case, with extensive further links]
* [http://www.supremecourtus.gov/oral_arguments/argument_transcripts/05-204.pdf United States Supreme Court oral argument transcript in pending case]
* [http://www.jenner.com/news/news_item.asp?id=000013238624 Texas Redistricting U.S. Supreme Court Cases Resource Center]
* [http://gis1.tlc.state.tx.us/ Current Texas election districts]
* [http://www.tlc.state.tx.us/redist/pdf/060905.pdf United States District Court decision in pending litigation]


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”