Texans know about lines, including the sword-drawn line Col. William Barrett Travis allegedly scraped through soon-to-be-bloody Alamo sand to distinguish the brave from the not-so-brave. These days a three-judge federal panel meeting a few blocks from the Texas shrine is examining in tedious detail a set of lines that won’t be erased by an early-morning breeze. They’re drawn, not in sand, but on computers. Since these lines will determine for years to come how Texans choose their elected representatives, the state’s politically invested are fighting almost as ferociously as the two armies that clashed at the Alamo. Unfortunately, the fight will last a good deal longer than the 13 days it took the Alamo to fall.
A little background: The protections in the Voting Rights Act, now diluted after a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling, along with the guarantees of the 14th and 15th Amendments, are supposed to ensure that minority voters have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice, even in elections where the candidates do not necessarily look like them.
When the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature in 2011 and 2013 drew up redistricting plans for the Texas House and for Congress, there’s strong evidence that lawmakers cemented in GOP dominance by diluting the voting strength of black and Hispanic voters. Their modus operandi was to either parcel out the minority population among several districts or to pack minority voters into a particular district so that they wouldn’t threaten Anglo voting strength elsewhere.
There’s a good chance the court will find for the plaintiffs, who include minority and civil rights organizations. The state, in defending the indefensible, is wasting time and the taxpayers’ money – $3.9 million, in fact. That’s how much Texans will end up paying for Attorney General Greg Abbott’s aggressive defense of the Republican-drawn maps.
Full Article: Redistricting maps – Houston Chronicle.