The Brief: Redistricting Fight Returns With Feds More Involved
by JOHN REYNOLDS, The Texas Tribune
Jul 14, 2014 | 1339 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print

The Brief: Redistricting Fight Returns With Feds More Involved

The Big Conversation

The challenges to Republican-drawn maps from 2011 return to a San Antonio federal courtroom Monday morning with The Associated Press reporting that the U.S. Department of Justice is deciding to become more closely involved with the case.

"The Justice Department wasn't actively involved in the Texas lawsuit until it sought approval to join the case last year," wrote Paul J. Weber of The AP. "Attorneys say the Justice Department have been aggressively preparing for trial and not staying on the sidelines. 'They've been taking a prime role in depositions and discovery,' said Robert Notzon, an attorney for the Texas NAACP. 'They're not sitting back.'"

At issue on Monday is the Texas House map drawn in 2011. Although that map has since been supplanted, plaintiffs are seeking a ruling that the state intentionally discriminated against minority voters. A finding of discrimination — if it stands up on appeal — would provide the basis both for court-ordered remedies and possibly as grounds to force Texas back into the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act.

That latter action is suddenly relevant because of the Supreme Court's ruling last year invalidating the portion of the VRA that had caused Texas to seek permission before making changes to its electoral procedure. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, as would be expected, calls attempts to put the state back under pre-clearance "completely unwarranted."

One thing remains certain: It will be a long time before there is a final decision. The San Antonio federal panel will address House and congressional maps from 2011 and 2013 over multiple hearings over several months. And no matter what the initial result, rounds of appeals should be expected.

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