Texas can’t use its current voter maps in the upcoming congressional midterm elections after a panel of federal judges ruled districts approved by state Republican lawmakers illegally discriminate against Hispanic and black voters. The three-judge panel in San Antonio gave the state three days to say if and when the Texas Legislature will fix the congressional map, which the judges concluded still carried the discriminatory taint of districts lawmakers originally drew in 2011 with the intent to squelch rising Latino voting strength. If Texas doesn’t intend to correct biased districts, the court will hold a hearing to solicit advice before redrawing the map on its own, the panel said Tuesday. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, expressed disappointment with the ruling, which he claimed didn’t square with the court’s approval of essentially the same district boundaries five years ago.
Federal judges invalidated two Texas congressional districts Tuesday, ruling that they must be fixed by either the Legislature or a federal court. A three-judge panel in San Antonio unanimously ruled that Congressional Districts 27 and 35 violate the U.S. Constitution and the federal Voting Rights Act. The judges found that Hispanic voters in Congressional District 27, represented by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, were “intentionally deprived of their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.” Congressional District 35 — a Central Texas district represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin — was deemed “an impermissible racial gerrymander” because lawmakers illegally used race as the predominant factor in drawing it, the judges wrote.
Editorials: Fine Lines: Partisan Gerrymandering and the Two Party State | Lexi Mealey/Harvard Political Review
The American experiment began with a revolution. At its core was fair representation, the idea that individuals should be able to exercise control over their government. The Declaration of Independence expresses this idea, with Thomas Jefferson writing, “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed-That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it.” Since the nation’s founding, equal representation has served as a crucial catalyst for social progress. The 15th Amendment that granted African American men the right to vote was based on this fundamental principle, and the 19th Amendment granting suffrage to women followed under the same premise. The idea that all individuals deserved fair representation, regardless of race and gender, later spurred the civil rights movement, and continues to influence modern political reform across the nation.
A Michigan petition aimed at preventing political gerrymandering will go before the Board of State Canvassers on Thursday, when potential approval could end a delay that cost organizers more than a month of prime summer signature-gathering time. The “Voters Not Politicians” petition proposes creating an independent citizen redistricting commission to redraw legislative and congressional boundaries every 10 years, a task currently controlled by the Michigan Legislature. Organizers submitted language on June 28, prompting Bureau of Elections staff to review what critics are calling an overly complicated proposal to amend the Michigan Constitution. The small-print proposal spans seven pages and would alter or repeal several sections of the state’s primary governing document.
Pennsylvania: Why Pennsylvania sends too many Republicans to Washington – and why that could change | Philadelphia Inquirer
Pennsylvania sends too many Republicans to Washington. That’s not a partisan attack. It’s just math. Of the 18 Pennsylvanian members of the House of Representatives, 13 are Republicans and 5 are Democrats. That split should be more like 11 to 7 or even 10 to 8 if the districts were drawn without attempts at favoring Republicans, according to recent expert analyses. It’s all about the map: Several lawsuits are attempting to get various state legislative and congressional maps declared unconstitutional on the basis of partisan gerrymandering, the idea that one political party drew the lines in a way that benefited them unfairly. The lawsuits rely on a set of tools that for the first time could convincingly identify skewed maps and persuade the courts that a state’s map goes too far in favoring one party. A federal court has ruled Wisconsin’s state legislative map unconstitutional, the first victory in a partisan gerrymandering case in three decades.
North Carolina’s legislative leaders adopted rules Thursday that they will use when drawing new election district lines, after 28 districts were ruled unconstitutional last year. The current lines were drawn in a way to unfairly disenfranchise black voters, federal courts found. While racial gerrymandering is illegal, the U.S. Supreme Court has so far allowed political gerrymandering, and one of the new rules is that legislators may consider past election results when drawing the new lines. Rep. David Lewis told a joint meeting of the House and Senate redistricting committees that the process “will be an inherently political thing.” Democrats opposed that rule, along with another one that says the new maps can be drawn in such a way to protect incumbents. “It just seems ridiculous to me that you get to say, ‘We will protect the incumbents elected using unconstitutional maps,’ ” House Minority Leader Rep. Darren Jackson, a Wake County Democrat, said.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is backing Wisconsin in a high-profile case asking the U.S. Supreme Court whether lawmakers can go too far when drawing political maps to advantage one party. Paxton, a Republican, filed an amicus brief seeking to protect the status quo in political gerrymandering — redistricting maneuvers that allow controlling parties to bolster their majorities in state Legislatures and Congress even when statewide demographics shift against them. Fifteen other states signed onto the brief. “Never has the U.S. Supreme Court disallowed a legislative map because of partisan gerrymandering, and it surely can’t find fault with Wisconsin’s, which is lawful, constitutional and follows traditional redistricting principles,” Paxton said in a statement Tuesday.
The last time Republicans had to redraw districts – in 2016, when courts found North Carolina’s congressional map unconstitutional – they included a required 10-3 Republican advantage in the map-making criteria. At the time, Lewis said he didn’t think an 11-2 map was possible. On Thursday, Lewis said he probably wouldn’t say it that way if he could go back, but he was trying to show the courts that race wasn’t the deciding factor in new maps – partisan politics was. Political gerrymanders are legal, although a Wisconsin case pending before the U.S. Supreme Court could change that. What the courts have forbidden is an over-emphasis on race when it comes to drawing lines.
On a late-spring evening in Boston, just as the sun was beginning to set, a group of mathematicians lingered over the remains of the dinner they had just shared. While some cleared plates from the table, others started transforming skewers and hunks of raw potato into wobbly geodesic forms. Justin Solomon, an assistant professor at M.I.T., lunged forward to keep his structure from collapsing. “That’s five years of Pixar right there,” he joked. (Solomon worked at the animation studio before moving to academia.) He and his collaborators were unwinding after a long day making preparations for a new program at Tufts University—a summer school at which mathematicians, along with data analysts, legal scholars, schoolteachers, and political scientists, will learn to use their expertise to combat gerrymandering.
“Redistricting is a game of margins,” attorney Kate McKnight told lawmakers at the Legislative Summit in Boston. Legislatures always start with existing district maps and work from there, she said. No one starts completely from scratch. McKnight was joined by fellow attorney Abha Khanna for a discussion of the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in recent redistricting cases. Moderating the session, “Redistricting Goes to Court,” was Jessica Karls-Ruplinger, with the Wisconsin Legislative Council. As state legislators prepare to adjust the margins of districts in the next redistricting cycle based on the 2020 census, they’ll be looking to the court for guidance. It can be difficult to predict how a decision in one case might apply to others, but the attorneys told the group the court has asserted some general principles in recent decisions.