Thursday, September 26, 2013

DOJ Allowed to Intervene In Texas Districting Case

Posted By on Thu, Sep 26, 2013 at 11:08 AM

The U.S. can now intervene in a challenge to Texas’ redistricting maps, a federal court in San Antonio ruled. The decision comes after Attorney General Eric Holder pledged his support to fight against the state’s effort to maintain election maps previously deemed unfair.

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Attorney General Eric Holder. Photo courtesy of Commons Wikimedia

Texas’ 2011 redistricting maps were described as “intentionally” discriminatory toward minorities and in violation of the Voting Rights Act, by federal courts last year. But the recent Shelby County U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down key parts of the VRA, including the section that grants the feds preclearance when states opt to change voting laws, stripping the federal government of its power to prevent states like Texas, with long-seated histories of racial discrimination, from enacting new election laws.

In August, the DOJ vowed to maintain its power to check states, hopping on board an existing suit brought forth by minority and civil rights groups, as the Current previously reported, that would force states to undergo preclearance under a section untouched by the SCOTUS decision. Section 3 allows state to be “bailed-in” to preclearance and thus, need DOJ approval.

In a 2-1 ruling earlier this week, judges Orlando Garcia and Xavier Rodriguez on the SA federal court panel defended the DOJ’s attempt to intervene, arguing their reasons aren’t “moot”, the U.S. attempt was, in fact, conducted in a timely manner and won’t cause “undue delay”, as the state claims. The one dissenter, Judge Jerry Smith, argued the “hopelessly tardy” DOJ was too late to the game– “the government forfeited its claim to any permissive intervention when it failed to request intervention in 2011,” he wrote. And even if its timely, there is “nothing to be gained” from permitting intervention. Plucked from uber-conservative Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Smith, a Ronald Regan appointee, wrote the majority opinion in Hopwood v Texas, deciding the use of affirmative action in admissions wouldn’t be necessary.

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