Friday, December 02, 2005

DeLay's Redistricting Master Stroke illegal? **Gasp!!**

Part of Rep Tom DeLay's (R-TX) "legacy" was the redistricting plan that was forced through in Texas, and that "gave" the GOP extra seats in the House of Representatives.

At the time, it was controversial on several fronts:
  • - It was designed and implemented between census cycles. By itself this is not illegal, but poor choice, because (in theory) redistricting is meant to provide fairer representation, not just Gerry-mandering, and the demographics may have shifted significantly since the census reporting (which is presumably why the redistricting was done, due to shifts from the *prior* census cycle)

  • - The plan was seen as a strictly partisan effort to maximize the number of seats the GOP could win, not to provide a fairer distribution that could more fully implement the "one-man one-vote" test

  • - In what was seen as a symbolic, and very public, move, the Democratic members of the Texas legislature refused to take their seats for the vote, thereby depriving the legislature of a legal quorum. They even went so far as to absent themselves from the state of Texas entirely, so they could not be arrested and compelled to attend the session

  • - In a move that proved very embarrassing to Delay, when it was fully disclosed, Delay tried to use the services of the Department of Homeland Security to track down where the truant legislators had gone, and to send officers of the Department of Texas Public Safety (the "Texas Rangers") to arrest them, only to have the officers find that they could not so arrest the legislators, because the Rangers were out of their jurisdiction and they could not find a judge sympathetic enough to grant them jurisdiction

  • - The redistricting plan, as devised, was very similar to one that had already been struck down by the courts as being in violation of mandated corrective measures

  • - Many thought that the redistricting plan shouldn't pass muster, as it appeared to violate several points of law, but the Department of Justice declared that it was legal and met all the requirements of federal law

  • Except, that maybe, it really didn't meet those requirements, and maybe it really shouldn't have been approved by DOJ.

    The Washington Post is reporting that the DOJ lawyers tasked with reviewing the redistricting plan unanimously (six lawyers and two other advisers) recommended against the approval, but were overridden by senior officials at DOJ, who approved the plan (Justice Staff Saw Texas Districting As Illegal)

    This tactic, in a voting rights/representation case, of the career staff being overridden by the political appointees senior staff should sound familiar -- it's the same actions that were taken in Georgia, when the senior DOJ officials "pre-approved," over the objections of the career staff, the change in the voter-identification process. (See my earlier article here) Texas, as in Georgia, must submit any changes in voting procedures or redistricting to DOJ before they can be implemented.

    This information is just now coming to the fore because a previously undisclosed memo, where the career staff detailed their analysis, has been obtained by the Washington Post (the .PDF file of the 73-page 12/12/03 memo is here)

    (Please see the full text, "Under The Fold.")

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