Federal Court Proposes Congressional Voting Districts

AUSTIN (AP) – A San Antonio-based federal court on Wednesday issued a proposed interim map for Texas congressional districts ahead of the 2012 election, which some believe will give Democrats a greater chance of winning additional seats.

The court-drawn maps will remain in place until there is a resolution to two parallel legal fights over redistricting maps drawn by the Legislature. Minority groups have sued the state claiming the political maps drawn by GOP lawmakers do not reflect the growth in the state’s Hispanic and black population. In a separate case in Washington, a federal court refused to approve maps without a trial, agreeing with the Department of Justice that there was sufficient evidence to question whether it hurt minority representation.

Texas, among other states with a history of racial discrimination, can’t implement the maps or other changes to voting practices without federal approval under the Voting Rights Act. No federal approval and looming deadlines for county election officials made it necessary for the San Antonio court to issue their own plans that could be implemented immediately.

In the most obvious advantage for Democrats, the court’s map divides Travis County, which includes Austin, into three congressional districts rather than five. The Legislature’s map pitted incumbent U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat, against a Democratic challenger from San Antonio. The court drawn map gives Austin and San Antonio separate districts that do not overlap, both of which appear to give Democrats an advantage.

The court also made significant changes to districts in the Corpus Christi area and rural West Texas, putting Republican U.S. Reps. Blake Farenthold and Francisco “Quico” Canseco at risk of losing their seats.

Democrats were pleased with the proposed maps.

“We are pleased that Texas is on the road to fair elections in which the voters, rather than Republican mapmakers, will get to determine the outcome,” said Boyd Ritchie, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party.

“The maps enacted by the Legislature were an egregious example of Republican overreach and a complete disrespect of the changing Texas demographics.”

The court will now accept comments on its proposed maps until noon Friday before issuing a final version of the maps before Monday, when candidates will begin registering to be placed on the ballot.

The congressional map is one of three maps being challenged, along with maps for the Texas House and Texas Senate. Interim proposals for those legislative districts were released by the San Antonio court last week. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has said he is considering appealing the court-drawn maps to the U.S. Supreme Court, claiming the judges involved overstepped their bounds in enforcing the Voting Rights Act.

Lawmakers redraw districts every 10 years to reflect changes in census data. Texas is adding four additional congressional seats in 2012, a reflection of the state’s rapid population growth. Experts say three of those new seats would have gone to Republicans under the legislative map. Republican leaders said those districts were drawn to benefit their party, not hurt minority voters.

When drawing the interim map, the court gave priority to ensuring that minority voting strength was protected in the 2012 election. Minority voters make up the majority in 13 of the districts in the court-drawn map, while minority voters make up the majority in only 10 of the current districts.

That gives Democrats a greater chance of winning three of the new congressional seats. It also helps Democrats’ national efforts to gain 25 seats and win back the House.

More than 87 percent of the population growth in Texas since 2000 has been among minorities. In 2010, whites in Texas dropped to less than 50 percent of the population, but they still make up the vast majority of election officials.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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  • darrell

    considering that those illegal hispanic insurgents have zero rights in american, they sure are taking over our government at all levels in a hurry thanks to obama and the democrats.

  • I've been to all 57 states

    If you like high unemployment, a reduced credit rating as a nation and giving people who do not have the burning desire to ever get ahead other peoples money, then this map is good for you. However, if you think America was a good place to live, you can start to get her back to a triple A rating, redesign some of the crippling effects of the regime in Washington by simply voting out the ILK in 2012. please remember what made this nation great, (It was not freeloaders) it is hard working people that know how to grin and bear it, not whinnig wimps!

  • Rick McDaniel

    The judges were likely Democrats, of course. You failed to mention that fact.

  • TrueTexan

    Think back, didn’t Texas belong to the Indians and Mexico before immigrants took it over?
    Well now it belongs to all of us who live here and some of those are transplants from the North that where not born here.
    I was born here, don’t belong to either party, heinze 57 heritage, and anyone with an ounce of education could tell the map was not drawn fairly. Both sides constantly pull this stunt and waste taxpayers dollars over it every 10 years now. Might save some bucks if we only have a panel of non-party affiliated people draw the lines from now on or make it mandentory if their map fails at the federal level they refund the taxpayers money they have earned and wasted on trying to pull such stunts. As for me I’d rather see it be a reason they get fired from their jobs since it clearly shows they are not representing all the people and only people in their party.

    • darrell

      the 2.5 million pound elephant in the room everyone wants to ignore is the fact that illegals were counted in the census and are being given representation within our government at all levels based on redistricting. illegals have no rights in this country. why should their presence influence how districts should be drawn which should only represent those who have a right to be in this country and be represented? this does not just apply to texas. it affects the entire nation. the 2010 census puts their numbers at over 12 million. at best this is half the true number. even so, thats 13 seats in the u.s. congress your giving them.

  • FedUpTxn

    Voting districts should be based on straight lines, square boxes of equal population ONLY. To do otherwise, particularly by race, is DISCRIMINATION. That is supposed to be ILLEGAL in this country! But there is so much of it now, everyone turns a blind eye. Anything to get a vote, including lying, cheating, and stealing. But by all means, call yourself a Christian as you’re doing it!

  • TrueTexan

    I worked a couple of times in my life for the census, so I know it tries to enclude everybody legal or not, and yes even legals have failed to enter enough information to prevent having to use taxpayers money for someone to go try to get the information they didn’t fill in.
    Even though if an illegal fills in the information and it creates another opening for another representative for a state, unless they are illegally voting then all it does is bring in more federal money for schools, health, etc. and gives the state another seat. As for the maps they should not represent race, religion, political parties, etc., but only divided by population vs land mass so everyone in the state legally gets equal representation (cities are more populated, but they do not deserve to have more representatives than those who live in the country and grow the food that feeds us all). Fair is every legal person gets equal representation and no matter who is elected they represent all the legal people in their district and not their parties.
    Sorry illegals you get no representation because you do not belong here, go home and make your homeland better or come back here legally with a work visa. No one law is any better than any other when it comes to breaking the law, thus you are criminals along with anyone who gives you shelter or work. Come back legally and I’ll respect you just as much as I do anyone else in this Nation who does not break the law.

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