Two court rulings, one last month about how state legislators redrew congressional districts in 2011 and one this week about the restrictive voter ID law adopted that same year, stand a good chance of landing Texas back under required federal review of any future changes in its election laws or procedures.
Think about that. We’d need Washington’s blessing on almost every aspect of our elections.
We’ve been there before — for decades.
We only got off the federal review list when the Supreme Court struck a match to it in 2013, ruling that the Voting Rights Act procedure for determining who was on the list was so outdated as to be unfair.
We were on the list because Texas had a history of voter discrimination.
We could land on it again because the courts have said our congressional redistricting and voter ID laws intentionally discriminated against minority voters.
That’s shameful, and if these rulings hold up after further court fights, back under federal supervision is exactly where we belong.
On March 10, a three-judge panel ruled 2-1 on the congressional redistricting case. The prevailing opinion pointed specifically at District 23, stretching from San Antonio to El Paso; District 27 around Corpus Christi and District 35 in Central Texas.
It said “mapdrawers acted with an impermissible intent to dilute minority voting strength or otherwise violated the Fourteenth Amendment.”
One judge said the case was moot because while it was in court, elections were held based on court-ordered maps rather than those the Legislature drew.
That’s no comfort. If our elected officials intentionally discriminated, that threshold was passed when they voted on the maps. Whether or not those discriminatory lines were ever used, the dark stain remains.
The voter ID law’s story is similar. Last July, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back to its Corpus Christi trial judge to reconsider her determination that the law’s restrictions intentionally targeted minority voters. November’s elections were held under relaxed voter ID rules.
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos said her opinion on intentional discrimination had not changed.