From this story in today’s Houston Chronicle:
Almost 1 million blacks and Hispanics live in the districts of six Anglo Democratic congressmen who likely would lose re-election under the proposed Republican redistricting plan…And [Rep. Ruth Jones McClendon, D-San Antonio] said blacks and Hispanics in Galveston are taken out of [Democrat Nick] Lampson’s current 9th District and put into House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s proposed 22nd District.
“It puts the African-Americans in Galveston County into Mr. Tom DeLay’s district, where you know they will have absolutely no influence,” McClendon said. “It takes away the voting rights of those citizens who have worked so hard to keep from being disenfranchised.”
This struck me because, having been to both Galveston and Sugarland, I can say that they are rather far apart:
Start: Sugar Land, Texas, United States
End: Galveston, Texas, United States
Total Distance: 56.5 Miles
Estimated Total Time: 1 hour, 15 minutes.
(Galveston is on the Coast; Sugar Land is Southwest of Houston)
As I said before, it’s a naked power grab and a classic gerrymander, assuming that Rep. McClendon’s statement is correct. Take most of the Galveston minorites out of the Galveston district and put them in a district conservative enough to elect Tom Delay, so that their votes don’t count in any races other than Senate and Presidential elections. Then, with only whites voting in what remains of the Galveston district, Republican victory there is nearly assured.
However, a flagrant racial gerrymander like this is unlikely to withstand scrutiny by the Department of Justice, meaning that it will likely end up in federal court again. The federal government can’t really do anything about purely political gerrymandering within a state, but if it’s based on race–as much of DeLay’s proposed map appears to be–then the Voting Rights Act comes into play. Now my question for the legal experts is which map would be used in 2004 if the matter is still before the courts? Is there an automatic provision, or would it be up to the trial judge?