DOJ: ‘Ample circumstantial evidence’ of Texas’ intent to limit Latino voting power
Wednesday, October 26, 2011 at 12:20 pm
The U.S. Department of Justice stepped up its criticism of Texas’ redistricting plans in court filings late Tuesday night, writing there’s “ample circumstantial evidence of a discriminatory purpose with regard to both the State House and Congressional plans,” TPMMuckraker reported this morning.
The DOJ stepped in to challenge those two maps last month, as a federal court in Washington considers whether they would reduce minority voting power in the state. In response to Texas’ motion for summary judgment, the DOJ offered its strongest criticism of the plans yet, saying they’d hundreds of thousands of Latino voters into districts where the candidate of their choice could get elected:
“The proposed Congressional redistricting plan has a retrogressive effect because, compared to the benchmark plan, it decreases the percentage of districts in the Congressional plan in which minority voters have the ability to elect and because under the proposed plan 479,704 fewer Hispanics will reside in districts in which they have an ability to elect a candidate of choice,” lawyers with DOJ’s Civil Rights Division write. “Both plans were also adopted with a discriminatory purpose, and there are a substantial number of material facts in dispute with regard to both prongs of the Section 5 standard.”
Race and ethnicity, the lawyers wrote “were common themes during discussions between the Republican leadership and others, including a United States Congressman and staff. State leaders viewed race as a proxy for party, leading to redistricting decisions and movements of population based solely on the basis of race.”
In August, unsealed emails between Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R-San Antonio) and Congressman Lamar Smith (R-TX) revealed congressional Republicans’ involvement in the redistricting process. The Houston Chronicle and Politico reported those emails also revealed a dustup between Smith and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who disagreed on how boldly they should redraw the district lines.
After one of Barton’s staffers wrote in an email that Smith’s plan amounted to “high-risk poker with no discernible positive return,” Smith wrote another message warning him to quit sending messages that “may be used against us in court.”
In its Tuesday night filing, the DOJ said those emails “provide riveting circumstantial evidence” that the Republicans crafting the plan worked to shut out minorities from redistricting talks, and drew districts based on race, not party affiliation.
In his Texas Redistricting blog, Dallas attorney Michael Li added that “the DOJ also disagreed strongly with the state on discriminatory intent arguing that there is ‘direct and circumstantial evidence’ that ‘that ‘both plans were enacted with discriminatory purpose.’”
Texas has until Monday to reply to the DOJ and other groups’ opposition, Li writes, and the court will hear the state’s arguments for a ruling in its favor on Nov. 2.
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