Friday, December 02, 2005

Washington Post: Justice Staff Saw Texas Districting As Illegal

Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay (R) violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan. The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department's voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts....
"The State of Texas has not met its burden in showing that the proposed congressional redistricting plan does not have a discriminatory effect," the memo concluded. The memo also found that Republican lawmakers and state officials who helped craft the proposal were aware it posed a high risk of being ruled discriminatory compared with other options. But the Texas legislature proceeded with the new map anyway because it would maximize the number of Republican federal lawmakers in the state, the memo said.... The 73-page memo, dated Dec. 12, 2003, has been kept under tight wraps for two years. Lawyers who worked on the case were subjected to an unusual gag rule. The memo was provided to The Post by a person connected to the case who is critical of the adopted redistricting map. Such recommendation memos, while not binding, historically carry great weight within the Justice Department.

Although public testimony and public opinion throughout the state were overwhelmingly against redistricting, the Lege passed the plan anyway (after quorum-busting Democrat legislators gave up their somewhat comical flight to Oklahoma and New Mexico to try to block it). I was one of hundreds of Texans who testified against redistricting at the Capitol into the wee hours of the night, giving the Republican legislators the benefit of the doubt that the public hearings were not just a farce. Now I know better.

Thanks to Ken Sain for the heads-up.


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