Redrawn 23rd District in Violation of Voting Rights Act

The U.S. Supreme Court today upheld almost all of Texas' congressional map engineered by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. But, as Houston Public Radio's Rod Rice reports, the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, found that the redrawn 23rd district violates the voting rights act.

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The redrawn 23rd is mostly south of Interstate-10 and west of Interstate 35. It ends just east of El Paso. When the legislature re-drew it 100,000 Hispanics were moved out of it and into a new oddly shaped district. The 23rd seat in congress is held by Republican Henry Bonillo.

University of Texas government professor Sean Theriault says what the Supreme Court's decision says about race is a big win for Hispanics.

Race and ethnicity still matter and they matter in such a distinct and particular way in this district that they're willing to throw out the district lines that the state legislature had passed.

The Supreme Court did not what to get involved in the politics of redistricting and found nothing wrong with states redrawing district lines anytime they wish, not just the traditional method of once a decade following the census.

Redrawing district 23 will affect other districts, those surrounding it for sure and it could trigger a domino effect on districts farther from south Texas. Theriault says it is not yet clear who will fashion the news districts.

I think that if the courts have to redraw the line the courts are going to be looking for a quick easy fix that minimizes the number of districts that would be facing new lines. I think that if the state legislature steps in I think the state legislature is going to have many more concerns on its plate, and those concerns being of course containing the huge Republican majorities in the state delegation, but also finding a way to satisfy Kennedy's test with district 23. So I think that if it goes to the state legislature it's going to be longer, it's going to be more protracted, and we could be talking about September before we know exactly what districts are going to be in play for the November elections.

Theriault doesn't think the make-up of the Texas congressional delegation will change much as a result of the high court's ruling.

Bio photo of Rod Rice

Rod Rice

Local Anchor, Morning Edition

Rod Rice became fascinated with radio at an early age, while sitting on his Grandfather’s lap listening to his "programs" on the big Emerson Radio...