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This Texas voting case could determine who controls Congress

A intently watched Texas election case resumed Tuesday, with Republican officers difficult a federal legislation they are saying has been “twisted” to learn Democratic candidates.

Lawyers for GOP-controlled Galveston County claimed to the New Orleans-based US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit that their 2021 redistricting plan, which broke up a Democrat-held, majority-black and Hispanic precinct, is lawful below the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965.

So-called “coalition districts” are supposed to shield the rights of racial and ethnic minority voters who make up a majority of the inhabitants in a sure space, and their constitutionality has been upheld by federal courts.

Galveston County Commissioner Judge Mark Henry
A federal case resumed Tuesday in Texas that could determine future management of Congress, in keeping with Galveston County Judge Mark Henry. Judge Mark Henry/X

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry informed The Post the rejiggered Galveston precinct, which is now 38.6% black and Hispanic, had been one in every of practically a dozen within the South which have been racially gerrymandered for “political gain.”

“Looking at the demographic breakdown of congressional seats in just the South, you’ll find nearly a dozen coalition districts from Texas all the way over to Florida and the Carolinas,” mentioned Henry, who additionally capabilities because the county’s chief government officer.

“If we are successful in our argument about coalition districts, then Republican-led states can revisit their maps, not just at the congressional level, but at the state and local level as early as next year,” he added.

The Biden administration is suing Galveston County officials for allegedly discriminating against people of color when officials redrew political boundaries for the Commissioners Court.
Galveston County Judge Mark Henry informed The Post the rejiggered Galveston precinct, which is 38.6% black and Hispanic, is only one instance of practically a dozen within the South which have been racially gerrymandered for “political gain.” Galveston County

“Regardless of the result at the Fifth, there will be a circuit split. We expect whoever loses at the Fifth Circuit will seek Supreme Court review to settle this issue nationwide.”

At least 5 different coalition House districts are presently represented in Texas by Democrats, most famously downtown Houston’s 18th Congressional District lengthy held by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

Republicans presently management the House by simply 4 votes, 217-213, with 5 vacancies.

Not all GOP officers are in settlement in regards to the sweeping implications of the case, stating that the Supreme Court already weighed in on the matter in 2008’s Bartlett v. Strickland determination.

Kristen Clarke, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Justice speaks on stage during the National Urban League Conference Plenary II: State of Black America on July 28, 2023 in Houston, Texas.
Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Kristen Clarke helped convey the lawsuit towards Galveston officers for having redrawn their district map. Getty Images for National Urban League

In that case, the excessive court docket voted 5-4 to strike down a North Carolina state legislative map that included a district that was 39% black.

The justices dominated that the Voting Rights Act didn’t compel the creation of a coalition district except a minority group makes up an absolute majority of the grownup inhabitants in a specific space.

Adam Kincaid, government director of the National Republican Redistricting Trust, informed The Post that the present Fifth Circuit case was “an outlier” and would possible align with the Bartlett precedent quite than be heard by the Supreme Court.

“The question is really: ‘What does the VRA require?’ Not: ‘What may a jurisdiction draw?’” Kincaid defined. “Galveston could have drawn a coalition district, but the VRA doesn’t require it.”

US District Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown
US District Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, in an October determination referred to as the 2021 district map “a clear violation” of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. US District & Bankruptcy Courts of Southern District of Texas

Only an “aggressive ruling” from the Fifth Circuit outlawing coalition districts altogether would result in jurisdictions moreover Galveston being redrawn, he added.

President Biden’s Justice Department sued Galveston County in March 2022, alleging that its new district map violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by discriminating towards black and Hispanic voters.

The DOJ’s swimsuit, which was joined by plaintiffs for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), prevailed in a federal district court docket final 12 months, forcing Galveston to undertake a brand new district map earlier than the 2024 election.

House Judiciary Crime and Federal Government Surveillance Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, D-Texas., delivers opening statements during a hearing on oversight of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Thursday, July 27, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington.
At least 5 different coalition districts are presently represented in Texas by House Democrats, together with the 18th Congressional District lengthy held by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee. AP

In an October ruling, US District Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, referred to as the 2021 district map “a clear violation” of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

Attorneys for Galveston appealed that call to the Fifth Circuit, which held preliminary hearings earlier than imposing a keep in December on the district ruling.

Attorneys for the civil rights teams accused county officers in oral arguments earlier than the Fifth Circuit final 12 months of getting “wiped off the map Galveston’s sole and historic majority-minority precinct.”

Justices of the US Supreme Court pose for their official photo at the Supreme Court in Washington, DC on October 7, 2022.
The Supreme Court declined to intervene within the case in December, pending a full, or en banc, listening to earlier than the Fifth Circuit. AFP through Getty Images

But the panel of circuit signaled assist for the GOP officers’ case, noting the district court docket’s determination to disregard minority candidates already elected below the brand new map, together with Galveston Commissioner Robin Armstrong, who is black and gained workplace as a Republican in 2022.

“At the end of the day, plaintiffs would read [Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act] to require race-based redistricting with no logical endpoint,” the Fifth Circuit panel wrote in its December order granting the preliminary keep. “The County has shown a likelihood of success in arguing that is unlawful.”

The Supreme Court declined to intervene within the case in December pending a full, or en banc, listening to earlier than the Fifth Circuit.

“The Voting Rights Act was meant to right wrongs. It wasn’t meant to subsidize political parties with legislative seats,” legal professional J. Christian Adams, who is representing Galveston, informed The Post. “That’s what this case is about — the real meaning of the Voting Rights Act, or, how it has been twisted by coalition districts.”

County officers have additionally cited a number of voter enfranchisement efforts on their half, together with offering election supplies in English and Spanish and even paying to host LULAC’s annual get-out-the-vote occasion.

“The Biden DOJ’s decision to sue Galveston County is yet another blunder that could ultimately lead to hamstringing the Democratic Party’s ability to control Congress,” Henry concluded. “They picked this fight.”

A ruling by the complete Fifth Circuit within the case, Petteway v. Galveston County, is predicted later this 12 months.

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