Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Federal Court Declines to Preclear Texas Electoral Districts Under Voting Rights Act

In the latest chapter of the Texas redistricting saga, a three-judge panel of the D.C. District ruled in Texas v. United States that Texas's redistricting maps failed to merit preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

The ruling means that the Texas legislature's original redistricting maps fail.  But the ruling doesn't touch the interim maps most recently drawn by the Western District of Texas in the companion Section 2 suit.  Those maps have not been challenged.

The ruling also doesn't say anything about the constitutionality of Section 5.  That's the topic of a cert. petition now before the Supreme Court.

Recall that the case arose when Texas sought preclearance for its redrawn State House, State Senate, and Congressional districts from the three-judge panel in the D.C. District (and not the DOJ).  (Texas redrew its districts to account for its ballooning population and to meet the one-person-one-vote standard.  But Texas, as a covered jurisdiction under Section 4 of the VRA, had to receive preclearance under Section 5 before it could finalize and implement the new maps.)  Soon after Texas filed its Section 5 preclearance case, opponents of the maps filed a claim under Section 2 of the VRA in the Western District of Texas.  While the Section 5 case was pending in the D.C. District, the Western District drew its own maps that, it said, complied with the VRA so that Texas could move ahead with its scheduled primary elections.

The Western District maps went to the Supreme Court in Perry v. Perez, where the Court invalidated them.  After Perry, the Western District redrew the maps, and they haven't been challenged.

Meanwhile, the Section 5 case in the D.C. District moved forward, and that court ruled today that the state's original maps--the ones for which it originally sought preclearance--did not merit preclearance.  As a result, the only maps out there seem to be the Western District's redrawn maps.

Today's case says nothing about the constitutionality of Section 5.  The D.C. Circuit recently ruled on that question, and said that Section 5 is constitutional.  The cert. petition in that case, Shelby County v. Holder (and a related, companion case), is now before the Supreme Court.

The Texas redistricting case is something of a side-show, now that the more central issue in Shelby County is on cert.--with the Supreme Court almost surely to grant review.  But even if the Court overturns Section 5, as seems likely, any maps still have to pass muster under Section 2--the original cause of action in the Western District case.  Shelby County doesn't challenge Section 2.

SDS

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Comments

Nice article! The court should take steps to decline the preclear texas electoral districts under voting rights then only the people can be optimize to invlove in the act. And they will response to this act.

Posted by: Abilena | Aug 31, 2012 11:55:26 PM

I agree with the Texas claim, in a separate case, that it's unfair to single out certain states because of something that's now 2 generations or more ago. It's constitutional and it's understandable, but it's unfair. If the provisions of the VRA are broadly unobjectionable, and I think they are, they should cover the whole country.

Posted by: Abilena | Sep 3, 2012 2:43:47 AM

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