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TX Gov. Rick Perry Calls Special Session to Implement Redistricting Maps Already Ruled Intentionally Discriminatory

Sine do, sine don't. Just moments after the House and Senate wrapped up their business, Governor Rick Perry called a special session to address the issue of redistricting.

So far, only redistricting is on the call but other issues can be added at any time. At press time, the Senate had already gaveled back in and begun to debate rules for the session.

From Perry's announcement:

The special session will consider the following issue:

Legislation which ratifies and adopts the interim redistricting plans ordered by the federal district court as the permanent plans for districts used to elect members of the Texas House of Representatives, Texas Senate and United States House of Representatives.

One problem: these interim maps were based on previous maps passed by the Legislature and found by the courts to be intentionally discriminatory against minorities. Sondra Haltom at Empower The Vote breaks it down:

The San Antonio court drew the interim maps as a temporary measure (that's why they call them "interim") while waiting on a ruling from a three-judge federal panel in D.C. as to the compliance of the legislatively drawn maps with the Voting Rights Act.  The D.C. panel later determined that the maps adopted by the Legislature were retrogressive (meaning they made minority voters worse off) and intentionally discriminatory against minority voters. You read that last part right. Not just accidentally discriminatory, discriminatory on purpose. In fact, the opinion states that the parties involved "have provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need, to address here."

Intentional discrimination was something the San Antonio court never heard evidence on or addressed because the D.C. court's findings came after the San Antonio district court had already ordered the interim plans into effect for the 2012 elections.  Additionally, the maps the San Antonio court drew still don't reflect appropriate representation for minority voters, who made up 89% of Texas' population growth in the last decade and are the reason Texas got 4 new Congressional districts in the first place.

So basically, the interim maps contain some of the same problems as the original maps the Legislature drew. For Abbott to think that the legislature can just adopt less-flawed maps to replace really-flawed maps and no one will challenge that is simply delusional and the members of the legislature shouldn't buy into it.

If the state really wants fair maps, they need to start over with the census and draw maps that reflect the state's population growth which was predominantly due to an increase in Latino and African American Texans. A fair map would have many more Democratic districts in it, in both the Congressional and Legislative maps.

That's not what Perry called them back to do.

Perry wants the Lege to pass the interim maps which were based on the original maps, just less bad.

What About Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act?

One other wrinkle in all of this comes out of Shelby County, Alabama where a SCOTUS case could threaten Section 5, which provides protections for minority voters in geographical entities with a history of racial discrimination. Section 5 requires preclearance in these covered jurisdictions. Texas is one such jurisdiction. If anyone questions whether Section 5 of the VRA need still exist, just look at the maps drawn by the Republican supermajority Legislature in 2011 that were found to have discriminatory intent.

If the decision on Shelby County comes down during all of this, expect the situation to get messier. If Section 5 is struck down after the Lege finishes the special, they might just be back to re-re-re-redistrict all over again.

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