Texas redistricting case to face 3 judge panel in San Antonio this week

Texas State Capitol (Nexstar Photo)

SAN ANTONIO (KXAN) — Monday, a score of lawyers will walk into a federal courthouse in San Antonio and try to convince federal judges that state lawmakers drew their districts to benefit white people at the expense of minorities in Texas.

It’s the latest round in a series of lawsuits on redistricting.

Every few years lawmakers bring out the maps and somewhat pick their own voters. Longtime politicos know many times after the desks clear in the Capitol, they’re filled in the courtroom.

“This is like the never ending story. It’s like something out of Charles Dickens. It just goes and goes and goes,” said Ross Ramsey, executive editor of the Texas Tribune.

In 2011, lawmakers drew maps with the census, they were immediately sued. A judge delayed the primary and created temporary maps, but then lawmakers made those temporary maps permanent in 2013.

“If the court finds something wrong with the lines, they will redraw the maps themselves — another set of interim maps — which somebody someday will call the 2017 maps, I’m sure,” said Ramsey.

The hard truth is for decades and decades, the party in power has tilted maps their way. Democrats did it until the GOP took over the state in 2003.

“Both sides take advantage of redistricting when they can. If this state were to change overnight, Democrats would do the same thing,” said Chair of the Travis County GOP Matt Mackowiak.

But to the question on whether these political lines intentionally were drawn to the detriment of minority voters, Mackowiak says no.

“We would never try and disenfranchise minority voters. All that does is make it harder for us to win minority votes in the future and that’s not the goal of the Republican Party,” said Mackowiak.

A possible outcome of this is Texas could have to go back under what’s called “pre-clearance.” That’s a list of states that have historically disenfranchised minority voters under the Voting Rights Act. It forced them to clear many district and voting changes with the federal government. Texas was recently cleared from that list.

“The stakes are incredibly high in this week’s bench trial. Based on the arguments presented, the court will decide whether we’ll have fair midterm elections in 2018 or if Texans will continue to vote under illegal, unconstitutional electoral maps,” said policy chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, State Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin.

“Since 2011, multiple federal court rulings have sided with MALC and found intentional discrimination in the map-making process. I am confident that the court will vindicate our arguments once again. It’s time to restore Texans’ representation in their government.”

The Supreme Court of the United States just agreed to take up a case from Wisconsin in the fall. Lawyers will argue whether the maps there were so politically motivated that they broke the law. That will have a nationwide impact and could change the maps here in Texas.

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