Supreme Win for GOP, Delay in Texas Redistricting Case
Tom Delay may have left Congress in disgrace, but the U.S. Supreme Court presented the former Majority Leader with a parting gift on Wednesday. By a 7-2 vote, the Court essentially endorsed Delay's unprecedented Texas Congressional redistricting plan that delivered six new House seats to the Republicans in 2004. The only minor setback for the GOP came in a separate 5-4 ruling that Texas' new 23rd district violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act with its suspicious gerrymandering shifting 100,000 Hispanic voters elsewhere.
The Supremes decision today opens the doors for serial bouts of redistricting by either party when control of state legislatures changes hands. Throwing out the previous practice of revising district boundaries only after each 10 year sentence, Justice Kennedy's majority opinion opened the floodgates for partisan map-making, stating flatly, "We reject the statewide challenge to Texas redistricting as an unconstitutional political gerrymander." Following Texas' lead, Republican majorities in Colorado and Georgia are already pursuing mid-decade district adjustments.
But a separate ruling in League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry did serve to highlight the growing controversy over the extension of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The Court ordered the redrawing of Texas' 23rd and adjacent districts, which it claims effectively thwart the ability of Hispanic voters to select representatives of their choice:
"[The] troubling blend of politics and race - and the resulting vote dilution of a group that was beginning to achieve (the law's) goal of overcoming prior electoral discrimination - cannot be sustained."
The issue of "pre-clearance" (regarding the process by which the Justice Department must pre-approve new voting and elections laws from 9 Southern states) is central to the effort by House Republicans to block the extension of the 1965 Act. As with the Georgia voter ID card program, the Attorney General had earlier overruled career Justice Department staffers who had concluded that the Texas map violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by diminishing minority representation. While DOJ's Civil Rights Division would not grant the necessary "pre-clearance" required for electoral changes in key southern states, the Bush White House had no such qualms. As I've written previously, while President Bush and Attorney General Gonzales have publicly called for the renewal of the Voting Rights Act, they are working to undermine it behind the scenes.
The fate of the 1965 Voting Rights Act remain uncertain, there can be no doubt that Tom Delay is smiling. After all, Delay got away with it all - an unheard of second redistricting in two years, the FAA surveillance of Democratic legislators, and possibly even the money-laundering to help TRMPAC win the 2002 mid-terms in Texas.
For more background on the Texas case and Tom Delay's insidious role in it, see "GOP Scandals Converge in Texas Redistricting Case."