A pair of federal court rulings that Texas leaders purposefully discriminated against minority voters in rejiggering congressional and state House boundaries have triggered a slew of pressing questions among politicos here: Will Texas soon see new political maps that are friendlier to Latino and black voters and, in turn, Democrats? If so, who would draw them: the scolded Republican-led Legislature or the courts themselves? Will the maps land ahead of the 2018 elections? A three-judge panel based in San Antonio will start wading through such questions on Thursday as lawyers for each side of the redistricting dispute return to court for a high-profile status conference. “This hearing is a very important event in the sequence of what’s going to happen,” said Jose Garza, an attorney for the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, a plaintiff in the case.
Articles about voting issues in Texas.
There’s nothing unusual about a state lawmaker and a mayor being worried about turnout in a local election. But in Dallas, it’s not just low turnout that’s got two local leaders concerned. It’s the cause. Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and State Rep. Eric Johnson have sounded the alarm over potential voter fraud in West Dallas. Many people in that part of the city received mail-in ballots for the county’s May 6th election, even though they didn’t ask for them. In November, some voters from the same part of town were turned away at the polls because mail-in ballots had already been filed for them. Johnson is a Dallas Democrat from Texas’ 100th district, where much of this activity has taken place. He says he first started hearing about the issue a few weeks ago.
Texas lawmakers intentionally diluted the political clout of minority voters in drawing the state’s House districts, a panel of federal judges ruled Thursday. In a long-awaited ruling, the San Antonio-based panel found that lawmakers in 2011 either violated the U.S. Constitution or the Voting Rights Act by intentionally diluting the strength of minority voters statewide and specifically in a litany of House districts across Texas. Those districts encompass areas including El Paso, Bexar, Nueces, Harris, Dallas and Bell counties. “The impact of the plan was certainly to reduce minority voting opportunity statewide, resulting in even less proportional representation for minority voters,” U.S. District Judges Orlando Garcia and Xavier Rodriguez wrote in a majority opinion, adding that map-drawers’ discussions “demonstrated a hostility” toward creating minority-controlled districts despite their massive population growth. In some instances, the judges ruled, map-drawers’ use of race to configure some districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act instead “turned the VRA on its head.”
A federal judge has told officials he is considering an independent review of the Houston area’s polling locations to ensure they are accessible to disabled voters. The possible action by U.S. District Judge Alfred Bennett is part of an ongoing lawsuit the U.S. Department of Justice filed last year, the Houston Chronicle reported. The lawsuit accuses Harris County, where Houston is located, of violating the constitutional mandate that voting sites comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. At a court hearing Friday, Bennett discussed the possibility of appointing a special master to oversee the review. No decision has yet been made.
Texas: Minority votes intentionally diluted by GOP-led Texas House redistricting, federal court says | Dallas Morning News
Texas statehouse districts drawn by the Republican-led legislature in 2011 intentionally diluted the votes of minorities, violating the U.S. Constitution and parts of the Voting Rights Act, a federal court ruled Thursday. In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel in San Antonio found that the maps gave Republicans an advantage in elections and weakened the voting strength of minority voters. House Districts in Dallas and Tarrant counties were among those in which the judges ruled minority voters had seen their clout weakened. The ruling is yet another blow to the state in its six-year legal battle over the redrawing of the maps. Last month, the same court found that the state’s congressional maps were drawn with intent to discriminate against minority voters and invalidated three congressional districts. And last week, a federal judge ruled that the state’s voter ID law was written with intent to discriminate.
Republicans redrew Texas House districts in 2011 to gain partisan advantage by intentionally and improperly diluting the voting strength of minority Texans, a federal court ruled Thursday. In a 2-1 decision, the San Antonio-based federal court panel said “invidious discriminatory purpose” underlies the map that set district boundaries for the state’s 150 House members in violation of the U.S. Voting Rights Act and the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection. “The impact of the plan was certainly to reduce minority voting opportunity statewide, resulting in even less proportional representation for minority voters,” the court said.
Months ago, new Texas congressional maps for the 2018 election seemed like a pie-in-the-sky idea. The federal court looking at a lawsuit against the state’s 2011 map had sat on a ruling for years, and the case had gone unresolved for several election cycles. But thanks to a down-to-the-wire decision last month, attorneys representing plaintiffs in this case say, there’s hope for new districts in time for the next election. Just last year, Gerry Hebert, one of the plaintiff attorneys, said he couldn’t figure out why the U.S. District Court hearing the case was taking so long to reach a decision. “We really have left a lot of the lawyers scratching their heads about what the court is actually doing – if anything – to get this case moving,” he said at the time.
The House Elections Committee on Monday approved a bill that would make court-ordered changes to the state’s controversial voter identification law, moving the proposal to the House floor under the looming specter of federal action.
Senate Bill 5, written by Rep. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would give more leeway to people who show up to the polls without one of seven state-approved photo IDs. They would be allowed to use other documents that carry their name and address as proof of identity, such as a utility bill, if they sign a “declaration of impediment” stating why they don’t have an approved ID. The bill would make lying on the document a third-degree felony punishable by two to 10 years in prison. It would also create a voter registration program that sends mobile units to events to issue election identification certificates.
For a second time, a judge ruled Monday that state lawmakers violated federal voting rights protections by intentionally discriminating against minority voters when they approved a strict law requiring an approved photo ID to cast a ballot. In a 10-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos wrote that the state “has not met its burden” to prove that Texas legislators could have enforced the 2011 voter ID law “without its discriminatory purpose.” At issue is Senate Bill 14, signed by former Gov. Rick Perry, which requires Texans to show one of a handful of acceptable government-issues photo IDs before they vote, including a drivers’ license, state handgun permit or U.S. passport. The measure, among the strictest in the nation, has for years gone through the federal court system for years. “After appropriate reconsideration and review of the record … the court holds that plaintiffs have sustained their burden of proof to show that SB 14 was passed, at least in part, with a discriminatory intent in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965,” the judge wrote. “Racial discrimination need not be the primary purpose as long as it is one purpose.”
Holy cow — now there’s another ruling against Texas election law. Once again, a federal judge has found that the state’s lawmakers intentionally discriminated on the basis of race when they were changing voting rules. If this happens enough times, the state might actually be forced to change its ways. In last month’s redistricting ruling from a three-judge federal panel in San Antonio, and in this week’s ruling on Voter ID, Texas was called out for intentional racial discrimination. The state seems to be doing everything in its power to prove that it cannot be trusted with voting rights. Maybe that’s no surprise. You know what political people are like: They’re the kind of people who bend and stretch the rules to make sure they’ll win. They cut corners when they think nobody is looking. They do every single thing they think they can get away with. The winners get to run the government.