Out, Damned Spot: Why You Should Care About -- Yawn -- Redistricting
Really, Governor Rick Perry and Texas legislators, is that the best you could do? No concealed handgun permits for fetuses? No requiring persons with diacritical marks in their names to register proof of American-ness? No seceding from the union? Governor Rick calls a special session of the Legislature, and so far all you're going to talk about is legislative redistricting?
Where's the fun in that? This is the Tea Party-drenched Texas Legislature here. Watching you act rational is like buying a circus ticket hoping to see tigers almost mauling snooty trainers, only to show up and find insurance salesman offering deals on whole life.
Regardless, Buzz only has what Austin brings to work with, so sit back while we explain what this special session is all about. See, it's about 2-year-old court challenges to the Legislature's last redistricting maps, which opponents say violate both Sections 2 AND 5 of the Voting Rights Act and maybe the U.S. Constitution, which a three-judge panel in D.C. and a federal district court in San Antonio in separate cases said they did, but the Supreme Court rejected the San Antonio court's interim maps, which we used anyhow in 2012 and now the Legislature will decide whether toooooooooooooooooo ... Oops. Sorry. Nodded off there for a sec.
Let's try again: The issue is whether the Texas GOP has figured out that it can't woo Latinos while kicking them in the junk. Critics say the Republican-controlled Legislature's original maps, drawn in response to population growth among Latinos, short-sheeted Latinos on safe districts. A three-judge panel in D.C. found that the maps deliberately discriminated, an ugly fact that could dog Republicans politically.
Even the interim maps the Legislature is pondering discriminate, says Matt Angle with the Lone Star Project, so adopting them might not help the GOP in its efforts to remake its image to a more inclusive "Kumbaya"-singing party. "It will stand as a judgment on the legislators," Angle says.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court will issue a ruling this month that could decide the constitutionality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires some states, including Texas, to get federal approval for any changes in their voting procedures. Whatever the Supreme Court decides, Angle says, the litigation over the maps will continue.
For now, the Legislature is scheduling public hearings on the maps around the state, and Angle says we'll probably be using minority-shorting maps at least this cycle. Texas Republicans will just have to live with the fallout.
"This Legislature passed maps that were found to be intentionally discriminating," Angle says. "That's a stain they cannot wash away."
Of course, how damaging that stain in depends on whether Latinos -- or other Texans -- actually choose to vote.