Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Another Reason to be Anti-Alito

Tom DeLay's Texas redistricting plan, which was deemed illegal by DOJ staffers, but whos findings were suppressed by the Bush administration, will be heard by the Supreme Court. The reason it was deemed to be illegal by the DOJ, was because it diluted minority districts in order for DeLay to create districts that favored Republicans, thus giving the Republicans a sharp advantage in the House.

Alito, has offered an opinion that he does not believe in the one-man one-vote rule. Alito was critical of the Warren court that established the judicial rule that every American's vote should carry the same amount of importance as every other American's vote. Prior to the Warren court decision, states often had situations where congressional districts were not apportioned by population. Therefore, some people were given less of a voice in our democracy than others. How one-man, one-vote is a bad thing, is beyond me. But, apparently Alito doesn't think it is necessary for a functioning democracy.

So, since Alito would most likely hear the Texas redistricting case, and since he is opposed to the judicial rule of ensuring equal voting rights, it does not appear that the outcome of the hearing will be in favor of the Voting Rights Act.

Just a nother reason I don't like Alito... I wonder if he supports strip searches in order to vote?...

Top court to review Texas redistricting plan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday that it would decide a challenge by Democrats and minority groups to the controversial 2003 Republican-supported congressional redistricting plan in Texas.

The justices agreed to review a ruling by a federal three-judge panel that upheld the bitterly contested map, which had been strongly supported by U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas.

DeLay, the former second-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, faces money laundering charges in Texas as part of a campaign finance investigation. He has denied any wrongdoing.

The Texas Legislature adopted the redistricting plan after calling three special sessions. Democrats stymied efforts to approve the plan at the first two sessions by leaving the state and denying Republicans a quorum.

Those challenging the redistricting plan argued it amounted to an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander by manipulating voting districts to give one party an unfair advantage and that it diluted the voting strength of minorities.

They said the plan shifted more than 8 million Texans into new districts and that it was designed in 2003 to protect all 15 Republican members of Congress and to defeat at least seven of the 17 Democratic members.

(Full Story)

More on the Supreme Court taking on the redistricting plan

CS Monitor - Supreme Court to weigh Texas redistricting

WaPo- Justices To Review DeLay-Led Districting


tommy said...

It's probably not relevant to the case, but the end result of the redistricting was more minorities being elected.

And I know I'm not a legal professional, but I think the crux of this problem was the court doing the redistricting in the first place. The law states that the legislature is supposed to do it every 10 years, the fact that the court did one is an example of judicial over reaching. Simply because a legislature is incompetent, should not be grounds for the courts to start handling legislative tasks.

Dingo said...

there were more minorities were elected, but the assumption was that even more minorities would have been elected in the future IF it had not been redistricted. There is an expected attrition of white democrats by minority democrats that will not happen due to the redistricting. It is like saying, " you had $5 yesterday, but you have $10 today. Nevermind that you would have $20 tomorrow, just be happy with the $10 and I'll keep the extra $10 that you would have had tomorrow if I had not changed the rules."

One of the problems was that it was mid decade. I think there would have been less of an issue if it had been done at the appropriate time.

Personally, I think all redistricting should be done by independent committee and not the legislators. There is too much of a conflict of interest and makes the legislators less responsive to the constituents. California has a huge problem with this. I was disappointed that prop 77 didn't go through even though it would have ended up hurting the Democrats there.

tommy said...

My main point is under what authority did the court do the redistricting in the first place? Whatever theory there is about how it should be done, the current system says the legislature should do it ever 10 years. I think the courts are usurping the legislature if they do it then prevent the legislature from doing it later because it's already been done.

If the courts choose to make the legislature have a do over because the end result is unacceptable for some reason, that's fine, that's the courts role, but it isn't the role of the court to do the legislature's homework. If the legislature had been forced to do this in 2000 when they were supposed to, none of this would be an issue now. I believe the last time the legislature drew the lines was in 1980, the last two had been done by the courts, which basically kept the old districts, but it's possible they were done in 90 and I just didn't find it.

Either way, the districts were drawn in such a way that they haven't been representative of the voters of the state for some time. I don' think that is the intent of our system either. A state that typically votes around 70% republican shouldn't have half of it's representatives be democrats. Or is voter dilution OK if it's republicans?

Or am I missing something?

Dingo said...

no, you point is well taken. And the state assemly should have done it in 2000 as you said. But the authority for the judicial action comes from the voters right act. When they were drawn up in '90 and in '00 (at least according to the pleadings in the Perry case) the judges used nutral criteria for drawing the lines (non-partisan), and went only by the one-man, one-vote rule. The re-drawing done in 2002 was done using partisan criteria which is the reason it needed to be reviewed by the DOJ due to Texas's history of racial criteria being used. According to Texas law, it was not supposed to be done again until 2010.

So, you have a case where it was re-drawn 8 years early and found by the DOJ to be in violtion of the voters right act. What this is doing is setting a precident for the lines to be re-drawn whenever one party or the other controls the state assembly for their own political gain.

If the supreme court rules in favor of the re-districting plan, than every state can use the SC ruling to do it whenever. This case goes well beyond Texas and why it concerns me so much.

The people should be choosing the legislators, not the legislators choosing the people.

tommy said...

OK here's my concern, as it is right now, it appears that certain voters rights are more protected than others. After the 2000 election, there was not a single state wide elected democrat in any office. The state itself had voted republican approaching close to 70%, yet, as a result of the districts, the democrats still controlled the state congress and sent 17 out of 32 representatives to Washington.

If an election is supposed to produce results representative of the desires of the voters, I don't think there is any way you can claim that election did so. One of the main complaints against the 2002/3 redistricting is that it was based on outdated census data, from 2000 and not from 2002. Fair enough, that's true, but the districts that were inplace ahead of time had been based on census data from at 1990, and possibly 1980.

As far as the 8 years early, I guess it depends on how you want to interpret it. Since the law says the legislature is supposed to redraw them every 10 years, does the court redrawing them satisfy that requirement, because if it does, what is the point of the legislature if the court can usurp their aurthority?

Because I think all of this is the result of the court overstepping its bounds, if the legislature had been forced to do something in 2000, no matter how poorly, then this would be a non issue.

tommy said...

My point on the 8 years early thing was I think the lines were redrawn 2 years too late.

Dingo said...

"The state itself had voted republican approaching close to 70%"

My point being that this could be said about any state. Connecticut voted overwhelmingly for Kerry, but yet it still has a number of Republican congressmen. The lines could easily be re-drawn to reflect this and wipe out any republican representatives from the state. While I would love to see at least the House go back to democratic control, this is not how I want to see it done.

If the SC rules in favor of the re-districting plan, than it gives the green light to any state to follow the same model. This will lead to more of a partisan divide that is already crippling the ability of the nation and the congress to function.

One of the reasons that the democrats where able to still be re-elected in 2000 regardless of the fact that the state is leaning republican was due to the personal connections that the incumbents were able to create with with their constituents. If the redistricting was done in using neutral criteria (as was done in 2000) and republicans gain control, so be it. It is a reflection of the populace in a neutral way. But doing it with non-neutral criteria as the republicans did, it is a manipulated result, not a natural reflection of the populace. Fixing the election a long these lines was not the intent nor the spirit of the requirement to redistrict the state every ten years. The purpose of districts is not to ensure incumbency, but to create areas where the elected officials would be responsive to the electorate. Drawing lines that ensure incumbency, regardless of the leaning of any one district is contradictory to the intent of the law.

tommy said...

There were zero state wide elected democrats. And the claim that the previous districts were drawn using neutral criteria is false. The court, when it drew the lines basically held the old districts in place that were drawn by the democratic government in 90.

Unless you think gerrymandered districts are a recent development.

Drawing lines that ensure incumbency, regardless of the leaning of any one district is contradictory to the intent of the law.

But isn't that the basic complaint the republicans had about the districts as they were in place? They had been drawn to protect democratic incumbents.

I still say the simple answer is for the courts to do the things the courts are supposed to do, and not do the things the legislature is supposed to do. The courts overstepping their bounds is what provided the loophole for this to happen in the first place.

Dingo said...

I can only speak to the information that was given in the pleadings. Supposedly, neutral criteria was used and it was stipulated by both the parties. As for the '90 re-districting, I honestly don't have enough info on that.

But, if the lines were virtually unchanged from '90 (and from what I understand '90 didn't change much from '80) and there was a demographic shift from democratic to republican, 20 year old lines are not exactly protecting democrats anyway. The only thing protecting Dems was the relationships they built with the citizens. It was not like the Dems re-drew the lines to protect themselves in '00 and then 2 years later the Repubs re-drew the lines 2 years later.

I think if the ends is political gerrymandering, and the means is the state legislators, then the means need to change to fit the intended ends. Currently, it is the job of the legislative branch to draw the lines. They should do it (but failed to even after a court case in '2000). That was the fault of the Dems. I'll give you that. But the last thing we need in this country is the re-introduction of political gerrymandering on a mass scale. It builds in political monopolies which is antithetical to true democracy.

Should the lines go back to '90? I don't know. But I don't think the '02 lines are proper either

tommy said...

Well as far as proper lines, who knows? I don't think any of them are proper since gerrymandering is sort of a fact of life. You can't go back to the 90 lines now, there has been too much of a population shift, especially in North Texas(which is sort of the crux of the problem, there has been a population explosion in republican parts of the state, at the expense of democratic parts, and the old lines don't reflect that). The reason the lines weren't drawn after the court case in 2000, is the legislature needs a quorum to approve it, and everytime it came up the Dems left the state since they liked the lines the court had drawn.

To me the whole thing is really simple, the rules are the legislature draws the lines every 10 years, and the courts are there to hear cases about improper actions of the legislature, and to force a do over if necessary. But I do think it has to be the legislature that draws them, no matter what.

I just think that is the way the system is designed so that's the way it should work. I don't think the 2000 lines are valid because I don't think the court had the authority to draw them. The 90 lines aren't valid since they are outdated.

I'd also like to see Texas drop the silly quorum rule(at least as it is written now), it seems like every few years we have one group or another leave the state to block something they don't have the votes to block in session.