Texas Politics

Texas lawmakers must redraw Fort Worth’s House District 90 — or the courts will

A San Antonio three-judge panel on Thursday said House District 90 in Fort Worth must be redrawn this year or in the early days of the 2019 legislative session.
A San Antonio three-judge panel on Thursday said House District 90 in Fort Worth must be redrawn this year or in the early days of the 2019 legislative session. Getty Images/Brand X

State lawmakers soon must redraw the boundaries of Fort Worth’s House District 90 to address racial concerns cited by federal judges.

A ruling Thursday by a three-judge panel in a U.S. District Court in San Antonio called on the Texas Legislature to redraw the district, now represented by Democrat Ramon Romero, in a special session this year or in the early days of the legislative session that begins Jan. 8, 2019.

If lawmakers don’t do that, justices said they’ll have the “unwelcome obligation” of redrawing the district themselves, Romero said.

This district was the only one singled out, cited for for deliberate discrimination by lawmakers, when the U.S. Supreme Court approved redistricting maps in Texas.

“Since 2011, the courts have made six rulings of intentional discrimination against the Texas Legislature,” Ramon said Thursday. “Take a look at the history of the Texas Legislature. We should unquestionably be put back under federal preclearance — requiring federal approval to change election law.

“I will continue fighting for equal representation for every resident of HD 90 and ensuring a fair and legal redistricting process by the Texas Legislature,” he said. “I welcome the lower court’s decision to force the Legislature to redraw the district in a way that protects minority voting rights and pray that we act in ‘true good faith.’ Given the history of the last decade, I am not sure that will happen.”

The district stretches through much of Fort Worth and includes neighborhoods such as the Stockyards, Como, Polytechnic Heights and the near north side.

Rulings

Earlier federal rulings in this case noted redistricting work in 2013 by former state Rep. Lon Burnam, who was defeated by Romero the next year, to address concerns in the redrawing.

Burnam, a Fort Worth Democrat, wanted Lake Como, an African American community, to return to this district after it had been removed.

As a result, one of the challenges to the map was that “Burnam returned Como to HD90 to protect himself against a Latino challenger in the Democratic primary, and thus to intentionally dilute Latino voting strength,” the ruling stated.

Romero beat Burnam in 2014 by 110 votes.

“Our goal is to ensure that the people of Texas have the opportunity to elect their candidate of choice,” state Rep. Rafael Anchia, a Dallas Democrat and chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said in a written statement about the court’s ruling Thursday. “The voters of HD 90 deserve a swift remedy.”

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley
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