For the second time in two months, a three member panel of federal judges ruled today that the Texas Republican leadership intentionally violated federal law when they redrew the state's political district, flexing their significant political muscle to place the state's growing Latino population at an unfair disadvantage, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Last month's ruling involved the drawing of three of the state's 36 Congressional districts. Today the court ruled that Republican lawmakers did the same in redrawing several districts in the Texas Legislature, including districts encompassing several of the state's largest cities, including Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston.
As in the Congressional ruling, Thursday's 2-1 decision by the panel focused on what is called 'packing and cracking.' 'Packing' is when bizarrely shaped districts are drawn to include several, often unrelated Minority neighborhoods to save the Anglo neighborhoods in between them for districts which are more likely to lean Republican. 'Cracking' is just the opposite, and involves splitting cohesive Minority areas into multiple districts to dilute the voting strength of Minorities, who are more likely to lean Democrat. “
In light of the overtly political goals, the use of race, and the absence of any other justification for the population deviations, the Court finds that deviations here resulted from the predominance of the illegitimate use of race to ensure that both districts remained Republican,” the two judges, one appointed by a Republican and the other appointed by a Democrat, said in their 153 page majority opinion.
“The Republicans have dealt Texas a deep moral wound,” Texas Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa said. “They haven't just been cheating to gain an edge in the political game. They have been deliberately holding back Texans from having a voice in their own government.”
In a strongly worded dissent, the third judge, Reagan Appointee Jerry Smith, blasts the decision as 'clearly erroneous.'
“The majority’s findings are fatally infected, from start to finish, with the misunderstanding that race, rather than partisan advantage, was the main reason for the Congressional and state house districts drawn in 2011,” Smith writes, and then adds, 'we will see how it fares on ultimate appeal,' hinting that the newly fully constituted U.S. Supreme Court may overturn both rulings.
Generally, courts have ruled that drawing districts based on race is illegal, but drawing districts to gain political advantage for the majority party is not.
At issue is the habit of Anglo voters in Texas to lean Republican, while Hispanic and African American voters lean Democrat, and to determine where using politics as a determining factor ends and using race begins.
Republicans have dominated all statewide non judicial offices in Texas for more than twenty years, and have frequently used that advantage to draw new political boundaries to benefit the Republican Party.