Redistricting Arguments This Week

by TChris

The Texas redistricting Tom DeLay masterminded in 2003 might be his political undoing. Wouldn't the irony be insanely rich? (Of course, DeLay's indictment and corrupt behavior also play a role in his fate.)

When the new maps were drawn, Mr DeLay allowed some of the reliably Republican areas in his district to be included in neighbouring areas, "so he could get more Republican districts around him", said Gary Keith, a government professor at the University of Texas at Austin. "It has made him more vulnerable."

Recent polls confirm this, with Mr DeLay struggling against Nick Lampson, his Democratic challenger. Mr Lampson knows better than most what is at stake in the redistricting battle. He was one of the Democrats who lost his House seat after the Republican redistricting.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments Wednesday in a challenge to the redistricting scheme.

In legal terms, the dispute turns largely on this: Whether the Republican maneuver in 2003 crossed the line between "excessive partisanship -- which is unconstitutional -- and permissible partisanship -- which is not unconstitutional," according to Guy-Uriel E. Charles, a law professor who summarized the case in an American Bar Association publication. ...

Critics of the Republican reapportionment plan also allege the new district lines violate the Voting Rights Act, which is designed to protect the rights of blacks and Hispanics. In addition, they argue that the Constitution prohibits mid-decade redistricting, and that Republicans ignored updated census data, violating the Constitution's requirement on one person, one vote.

The Court hasn't been anxious to interfere with the political process of redistricting, provided map drawers adhere to the "one person, one vote" rule and avoid obvious attempts to dilute minority voting power. Challengers to the Texas redistricting plan may be hoping that the stench DeLay carries with him infuses the redistricting scheme, motivating the Justices to clean up the problem instead of holding their noses.

Keep an eye on Justice Kennedy.

Kennedy cast the swing vote in a 5-4 decision in 2004 that upheld Republican redistricting in Pennsylvania. But unlike other justices who made up a majority, he suggested some future claim against gerrymandering might have merit. "The assumption is that Justice Kennedy sees something in this case that he finds troubling," Charles said in an interview.

Some Republicans argue that the redistricting is fair payback for all the years that Democrats drew Texas district boundaries in a way that favored Democrats. Surely it's time for a change from this "to the victor go the redistricting spoils" philosophy.

Some reform advocates have called for the creation of independent commissions to take the power out of the hands of elected officials.

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    Re: Redistricting Arguments This Week (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Feb 27, 2006 at 05:07:04 PM EST
    Maybe the court will change the districts back just in time to help him out. This is Texas we're talking about, after all. P.S. If you take a cab out of Houston International, the meter hits $10 before you've left the airport. Now that's urban planning.

    Re: Redistricting Arguments This Week (none / 0) (#2)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Tue Feb 28, 2006 at 07:17:37 AM EST
    If the court changes the districts back, it may help DeLay, but I'd be willing to keep a weakened DeLay hanging around and stinking up the Republican Party if it meant the Democrats regained the six seats lost to redistricting.