SAN ANTONIO – In rejecting Texas' new political maps, a federal court's ruling Tuesday may have affected the makeup of the state's congressional and legislative delegations after the 2012 elections.
States are required to redraw district maps once a decade to accommodate new census figures. A three-judge District of Columbia panel ruled that Texas lawmakers this year weakened minority voting strength in their redistricting efforts.
State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, chairs the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus.
"They intended to discriminate when they removed pockets and concentrations of minorities where they were active and participated in the elections process."
While not predicting how many Democratic seats might be saved now that the Republican-drawn maps are in limbo, he says he is confident temporary maps to be drawn by a San Antonio court by the end of the month will reshape the political landscape...
"I can tell you that they will elect more minorities than the current maps passed by the Legislature, because those maps not only do not give minorities opportunities reflected in the census, they actually went a step backward."
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had argued that the legislative maps adequately accounted for minority population gains, but the U.S. Department of Justice said redistricting should take into consideration actual voting patterns, not just raw statistics. Martinez Fischer says the decision by Abbott to defend the maps in court was an expensive error.
"It's definitely costing lots of money, it is consuming a lot of the court's time, and certainly spending millions of dollars on Texas redistricting is probably the last thing taxpayers want to hear. So, I think we could have used this money in other places."
Texas is one of several states needing federal approval for political maps because of historic patterns of disenfranchising minorities. Typically, the Justice Department approves the maps - or not - but this year Abbott chose to appeal directly to the federal court. Tuesday's ruling clears the way for a full trial on the Legislature's plan.