This Texas court case could determine who controls Congress

A carefully watched Texas election case resumed Tuesday, with Republican officers difficult a federal law they say has been “twisted” to benefit Democratic candidates.

Legal professionals for GOP-controlled Galveston County claimed to the New Orleans-based US Courtroom of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that their 2021 redistricting plan, which broke up a Democrat-held, majority-black and Hispanic precinct, is lawful underneath the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

So-called “coalition districts” are supposed to shield the rights of racial and ethnic minority voters who make up a majority of the inhabitants in a sure space, and their constitutionality has been upheld by federal courts.

A federal case resumed Tuesday in Texas that would decide future management of Congress, in response to Galveston County Decide Mark Henry. Decide Mark Henry/X

Galveston County Decide Mark Henry informed The Submit the rejiggered Galveston precinct, which is now 38.6% black and Hispanic, had been one in all practically a dozen within the South which were racially gerrymandered for “political achieve.”

“Wanting on the demographic breakdown of congressional seats in simply the South, you’ll discover practically a dozen coalition districts from Texas all the best way over to Florida and the Carolinas,” mentioned Henry, who additionally capabilities because the county’s chief government officer.

“If we’re profitable in our argument about coalition districts, then Republican-led states can revisit their maps, not simply on the congressional stage, however on the state and native stage as early as subsequent 12 months,” he added.

Galveston County Decide Mark Henry informed The Submit the rejiggered Galveston precinct, which is 38.6% black and Hispanic, is only one instance of practically a dozen within the South which were racially gerrymandered for “political achieve.” Galveston County

“Whatever the outcome on the Fifth, there will likely be a circuit break up. We anticipate whoever loses on the Fifth Circuit will search Supreme Courtroom evaluation to settle this difficulty nationwide.”

No less than 5 different coalition Home districts are at present represented in Texas by Democrats, most famously downtown Houston’s 18th Congressional District lengthy held by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

Republicans at present management the Home by simply 4 votes, 217-213, with 5 vacancies.

Not all GOP officers are in settlement concerning the sweeping implications of the case, mentioning that the Supreme Courtroom already weighed in on the matter in 2008’s Bartlett v. Strickland choice.

Assistant Legal professional Basic for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke helped deliver the lawsuit in opposition to Galveston officers for having redrawn their district map. Getty Photographs for Nationwide City League

In that case, the excessive court docket voted 5-4 to strike down a North Carolina state legislative map that included a district that was 39% black.

The justices dominated that the Voting Rights Act didn’t compel the creation of a coalition district until a minority group makes up an absolute majority of the grownup inhabitants in a selected space.

Adam Kincaid, government director of the Nationwide Republican Redistricting Belief, informed The Submit that the present Fifth Circuit case was “an outlier” and would seemingly align with the Bartlett precedent reasonably than be heard by the Supreme Courtroom.

“The query is actually: ‘What does the VRA require?’ Not: ‘What might a jurisdiction draw?’” Kincaid defined. “Galveston might have drawn a coalition district, however the VRA doesn’t require it.”

US District Decide Jeffrey Vincent Brown, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, in an October choice known as the 2021 district map “a transparent violation” of Part 2 of the Voting Rights Act. US District & Chapter Courts of Southern District of Texas

Solely an “aggressive ruling” from the Fifth Circuit outlawing coalition districts altogether would result in jurisdictions moreover Galveston being redrawn, he added.

President Biden’s Justice Division sued Galveston County in March 2022, alleging that its new district map violated Part 2 of the Voting Rights Act by discriminating in opposition to black and Hispanic voters.

The DOJ’s swimsuit, which was joined by plaintiffs for the Nationwide Affiliation for the Development of Coloured Folks and the League of United Latin American Residents (LULAC), prevailed in a federal district court docket final 12 months, forcing Galveston to undertake a brand new district map earlier than the 2024 election.

No less than 5 different coalition districts are at present represented in Texas by Home Democrats, together with the 18th Congressional District lengthy held by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. AP

In an October ruling, US District Decide Jeffrey Vincent Brown, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, known as the 2021 district map “a transparent violation” of Part 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Attorneys for Galveston appealed that call to the Fifth Circuit, which held preliminary hearings earlier than imposing a keep in December on the district ruling.

Attorneys for the civil rights teams accused county officers in oral arguments before the Fifth Circuit last year of getting “wiped off the map Galveston’s sole and historic majority-minority precinct.”

However the panel of circuit signaled help for the GOP officers’ case, noting the district court docket’s choice to disregard minority candidates already elected underneath the brand new map, together with Galveston Commissioner Robin Armstrong, who’s black and gained workplace as a Republican in 2022.

The Supreme Courtroom declined to intervene within the case in December, pending a full, or en banc, listening to earlier than the Fifth Circuit. AFP by way of Getty Photographs

“On the finish of the day, plaintiffs would learn [Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act] to require race-based redistricting with no logical endpoint,” the Fifth Circuit panel wrote in its December order granting the preliminary keep. “The County has proven a chance of success in arguing that’s illegal.”

The Supreme Courtroom declined to intervene within the case in December pending a full, or en banc, listening to earlier than the Fifth Circuit.

“The Voting Rights Act was meant to proper wrongs. It wasn’t meant to subsidize political events with legislative seats,” lawyer J. Christian Adams, who’s representing Galveston, informed The Submit. “That’s what this case is about — the true that means of the Voting Rights Act, or, the way it has been twisted by coalition districts.”

County officers have additionally cited a number of voter enfranchisement efforts on their half, together with offering election supplies in English and Spanish and even paying to host LULAC’s annual get-out-the-vote occasion.

“The Biden DOJ’s choice to sue Galveston County is yet one more blunder that would finally result in hamstringing the Democratic Celebration’s potential to regulate Congress,” Henry concluded. “They picked this combat.”

A ruling by the total Fifth Circuit within the case, Petteway v. Galveston County, is anticipated later this 12 months.


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