The seven year long battle over the Republican redrawing of Congressional and State Legislative boundaries heads to the U.S. Supreme Court today, which hopes to rule before the battle begins all over again with the 2020 Census, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
Democrats have long complained that the Republicans who control the Texas Legislature have used their power to draw legislative boundaries in bizarre and illegal ways, specifically to dilute the voting strength of Democrats.
State Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) who is the head of the Mexican American Legislative Conference, points to one district near his home which he says was specifically designed to carve up minority voting strength.
"It really does look like a snake that had eaten a rabbit," he said of the district's bizarre boundaries. "It really is a district which is a byproduct of this illegal racial gerrymander."
Under settled law, the party in power is allowed to draw political district boundaries to favor their own party, but they are not allowed under the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to draw district boundaries in such a way that they discriminate against minority voters. That is the issue the high court will have to consider, especially since party voting is tied so closely in Texas to race and ethnicity.
U.S. Rep Joaquin Castro (D-San Antonio) says all the court has to do is look at the districts to realize that something is wrong.
"The 35th runs more or less from Austin down I-35 to my home town of San Antonio, and looks more or less like a chicken finger," Castro said.
The lawsuit cites the 35th Congressional District, which is represented by veteran Democrat Lloyd Doggett, as evidence of racial animus in district creation. They point out that the district combines two completely separate minority neighborhoods in east Austin and northeast San Antonio, which have nothing in common, a process known as 'packing.' That enables Republicans who live in historically conservative and largely Anglo suburbs like New Braunfels to be added to other districts to support Republican candidates.
The case got a new twist earlier this month when a group of Anglo voters in Dallas County filed suit, alleging that the majority Democrat Dallas County Commission drew district boundaries for county officials which discriminate against them in favor of Black and Hispanic voters.
The case will be settled just in time for the 2020 Census, which will require a new round of Legislative redistricting in the 2021 session, which is certain to spark another decade of lawsuits.