About this time last year, the cost for Texas to defend redistricting maps was around $3.9 million. Add at least $1 million after a federal appeals panel last week awarded that amount to attorneys challenging the maps. According to the opinion, the Texas attorney general’s office’s response to a court order was woefully inadequate. Let’s be clear. We’re talking about the previous administration under now-Gov. Greg Abbott.
Here’s what else is inadequate — the state’s approach to redistricting altogether. But this latest cost adds a different wrinkle. It doesn’t take much reading between the lines of the panel’s decision to conclude the state’s approach on these legal fees involved a degree of incompetence. Texas was appealing a court order last year that it pay legal fees to lawyers who challenged the maps.
A District of Columbia federal court had said the maps were discriminatory. But the Supreme Court nullified a Voting Rights Act formula determining which states — including Texas — needed federal preclearance for redistricting and other election laws.
Texas contended that this ruling meant it won and wasn’t liable for the fees. But as the appeals panel correctly pointed out, the Supreme Court hadn’t declared Texas a victor. It sent the case back to a lower court for further review in light of its other ruling.
Moreover, maps approved by the Legislature later are still being challenged in federal court in San Antonio. Like their immediate and earlier predecessors, they ignore that Texas’ growth has been largely due to minority population growth, failing to offer commensurate representation for these communities.