August 1, 2017; New York Times
While chaos and staff turnover at the White House have been receiving national attention, Texans have been tuning into preparations for the 2018 mid-term elections. Those preparations could include redrawing the Congressional district map, for which Texas came under fire after a federal court ruled that the 2011 map was in violation of the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution. The map drawn by the Republican-majority Texas legislature was found to be discriminatory against Black and [email protected] voters, particularly in two districts, South and West Texas and the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which have significant Black and [email protected] populations.
Some say the map was created to intentionally diminish the voting power of Democratic minority voters in favor of Republican White voters, while others, including one judge prevailing on the case, felt the map was partisan-biased but not racially driven. Nina Perales, the vice president of litigation for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), said, “The court’s decision exposes the Texas legislature’s illegal effort to dilute the vote of Texas Latinos. Moving forward, the ruling will help protect Latinos from manipulation of district lines in order to reduce their political clout.”
How the state will move forward after this is unclear, but what is definite is that Republican House seats are potentially under threat. Demonstration plans have been released that indicate how Republicans will fare depending on who draws up the Congressional map. Republicans presented a worst-case scenario “Armageddon” map that shows the party would stand to lose half a dozen seats. It’s possible that a court-drawn map would just remedy the two districts found to be in violation of the Voting Rights Act in 2011. A third district, in the San Antonio area, was later found to be in violation, and a court-drawn map could potentially fix this issue as well, leading to a lost seat for that district, too. Additionally, there has been talk about adding a new “minority opportunity district” to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where the goal would be for ethnic minorities to elect a candidate of their choice—the likely result being another lost seat for Texas House Republicans.
While this issue may seem contained to Texas, how the federal court handles this case and how redistricting ends up will have real implications for the rest of the country. In a previous article, aptly titled “Protecting the Integrity of our Elections—and Not Just from Russian Hackers,” NPQ discussed how redistricting and new voter laws in North Carolina served not only to dilute the impact of Democratic voters but also restrict Black voters altogether.
Meanwhile, at the federal level, the commission charged with unearthing the elusive millions who robbed Trump of the popular vote grinds on, impressing no one with its understanding of the law and, at the core of its existence, acting as one more mechanism for voter suppression.—Sheela Nimishakavi