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Texas Conservatives Take Up Redistricting, Discrimination in Special Session

Hearings on the maps will be held in the Texas Capitol Extension Auditorium, room E1.004. The State Senate hearing is Thursday at 9am. The State House hearing is Friday and Saturday at 9am.

The Texas Legislature is returning for a special session that (for now) is only to focus on redistricting. Specifically, Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott have asked for the Legislature to approve, in lock-step, the existing interim maps. These maps contain elements of the old maps the D.C. court threw out last year, when it was found that they intentionally discriminated.

As the Associated Press reported earlier today:

A coalition of minority rights groups and Democrats sued the state in 2011 after the GOP pushed newly drawn political boundaries through the statehouse. A San Antonio federal court threw out those maps, which a separate federal court in Washington later found to contain evidence of discrimination.

Texas Republicans have since all but given up on their maps, and now want to permanently adopt boundaries drawn by the San Antonio court to get through last November’s elections. Under those maps, Republicans still preserved solid majorities: They hold 95 of 150 seats in the Texas House, 12 of 31 in the Texas Senate and 24 of 36 seats in Congress. Perry has made adopting the maps the only order of business so far in a 30-day special legislative session, which began immediately after the regular 140-day session adjourned Monday.

Minority rights groups complained to judges Wednesday that Perry’s narrow mandate only allows the Legislature to approve the interim maps and not consider changes. Among their beliefs is that Texas’ shifting demographics demands at least two more congressional seats that would be safely decided by minorities.

Voting is our most fundamental right, and our legislators should never suppress our right to vote or limit the ability of any Texan to participate in our democratic process. The San Antonio court-drawn interim maps currently in effect contain some of the offensive discriminatory features the courts found unconstitutional in the state-drawn maps. The court-drawn maps still fail to fully account for the explosive growth in Texas’ minority population over the last decade. Underrepresenting minority growth in our state’s maps limits the ability of those Texans to participate in our  democratic process. 

Texans deserve fair and legal redistricting maps that reflect the diversity of our growing state. The interim maps should not be adopted until the courts provide a path forward - especially since, as Texas Republican State Representative Dan Branch said in an interview with the Texas Tribune last week, it's nothing more than a political game to Abbott:

DB: This is the fight that Abbott chose. He lost a few rounds… he’s looking for an exit strategy and I think he’s too late.#TribLive

— Ross Ramsey (@rossramsey) May 23, 2013