Greg Abbott Wants To Make Texas' Interim (And Still Probably Unconstitutional) Redistricting Plan Permanent
As you may recall, Texas' 2011 plan to redraw political boundaries was so brazenly partisan, so undeniably bent on reducing minority influence, and the evidence was so mountainous and convincing that a federal court didn't even bother cataloging it all in its ruling against the state. "The parties have provided more evidence of discriminatory intent than we have space, or need, to address here."
You could practically hear emanating from between the lines a judge chortling, "Can you believe the cojones on these guys?"
Texas is, of course, one of a handful of southern states with a history of racial bias that must get pre-clearance from the Feds before enacting redistricting plans. Due mostly to minority growth, the state was under a microscope after gaining four U.S. House seats. Minority lawmakers saw stadiums and hospitals gerrymandered out of their districts. The Feds called foul. As a result, primaries were delayed. And Attorney General Greg Abbott blew taxpayer money on a losing court battle.
Apparently, he isn't finished. Those interim district maps drawn by the federal court? He wrote to Texas House Speaker Joe Straus recently, asking him to make the interim plan permanent. Once the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Shelby v. Holder, the challenge to the pre-clearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, Texas' redistricting fight will be back in federal court. Abbott, according to his letter, sees this as a way to avoid a court tangle and the work of redrawing a final district map. "Enacting the interim plans into law would confirm the legislature's intent for a redistricting plan that fully comports with the law, and will insulate the State's redistricting plans from further legal challenge," Abbott wrote.
The Mexican American Legislative Caucus says the state attorney general is just trying to avoid apportioning fair political boundaries. In an advisory to a federal court, the caucus argues that, yes, the interim plans are better, but still essentially unconstitutional. "The attempt of the State of Texas to circumvent the judicial process through legislation that fails to provide a final remedial redistricting plan for Texas House and Texas Congressional Districts is even more reason for this Court to begin the process that will lead to a final and just remedial plan for future Texas elections."