It should come as no surprise that gerrymandering is not exactly the most democratic thing done in American politics, as it does come with a lot of problems, but it seems Texas lawmakers learned firsthand that drawing lines on racial principle is very illegal. Most will tell you that they may not like gerrymandering, but not exactly know what it involves. It is completely understandable, as it can be quite confusing at the end of the day, and that is pretty much done on purpose.
Basically, gerrymandering is the process of manipulating electoral district lines to get a result you want for your party. This allows for these electoral votes to help when a party comes up for election or reelection. What is so sad is that these districts are drawn every 10 years by the sitting politicians. Meaning, they obviously use conflict of interest to establish the lines for their party. This, in turn, affects the elections for years to come, which is terrible to see.
This affects both the House and State legislatures, and while it may seem illegal, it is actually quite legal and it could be done by the person you did or did not vote for in your state. For example, if you know people in the state of Hawaii are going to have a two party system but mostly be Democratic due to districts, the best thing that can be done is redraw them for Republicans to get a bit of an edge.
However, if Democratic politicians are able to draw lines to affect voting, they’ll do them in favor of them and not for the red party. For example, let’s pretend that 40 percent of the state of Hawaii is Republican and 60 percent was Democrat. If done fairly, those districts would provide four districts for the Republicans and six for the Democrats. If redrawn to the favor of the Democrats, they could draw things to where all districts favored the Democrats and none helped Republicans.
This is done all over the country and usually, people judge on what a district votes for. However, they can also go off of certain areas. If some have high poverty levels, less jobs, etc., all of this can help determine how they might vote. So if districts favor one party over another in a redraw system, it would drastically turn an election the way of the sitting politician. While a lot of what is done is completely legal, there are times where it goes against the constitution, and Texas learned this lesson recently.
According to Reuters, Texas lawmakers drew up three U.S congressional districts to actually undermine the influence of Hispanic voters in 2011. This, according to a divided panel of three federal judges. The process they used was illegal, but the entire system pretty much allows this type of behavior to happen. The decision was made after U.S. District Court Judges Xavier Rodriquez and Orlando Garcia in San Antonio found that districts’ shapes vastly hurt minority voting power.
They did this by either splitting communities into different districts or concentrated minorities into a single area. The hope was to limit their sway in voting periods. Obviously, this was seen as terribly wrong, which is why it was seen as an illegal move by Garcia and Rodriquez. Both men have a past where they were appointed by former Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton respectively. Both of which were part of two different party systems.
Garcia and Rodriquez wrote about the situation with the districts, saying the following.
“When done to minimize Hispanic electoral opportunity, it bears the mark of intentional discrimination.”
As of now, it is uncertain whether or not Texas would appeal the ruling made. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton did not comment on the matter as of today, according to Reuters. They also claim that the districts that were found unlawful are currently represented by two Republicans and one Democrat. It’s pretty obvious who the unlawfully drawn districts favor here.
The battle over Texas redistricting issues have been going on since 2003, so this is not a first time situation that Texas is coming across right now. This happened when a sitting Republican legislature took the very random and odd step of throwing out the 2001 maps and redrew all the districts. As mentioned earlier, this only happens every ten years after the United States Census is done.
After this was done, it was found that in redrawing the southwestern 23rd Congressional district alone, politicians moved 600,000 voters between districts and fractured a heavily Latino country, which was a deliberate attempt to lessen Hispanic voter turnout. If you hurt the Hispanic vote by moving people around so that once major Hispanic districts were now lessened, it takes away from an area that would need to have representation properly drawn.
Under former President Barack Obama, the United States Justice Department had joined the legal challenge on all of this. Obviously, as of now, it is uncertain if current President Donald Trump and his administration will oppose the Texas redistricting.
The third judge on the panel with Garcia and Rodriquez who never thought the gerrymandering done was wrong, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith, would talk about his disagreement with the map. He feels it was properly based on political and not racial considerations. He even went as far to say that the Obama administration had overstepped its bounds on the issue. He would go on to say this.
“It was obvious, from the start, that the DoJ attorneys viewed state officials and the legislative majority and their staffs as a bunch of backwoods hayseed bigots who bemoan the abolition of the poll tax and pine for the days of literacy tests and lynchings.”
While it may not be that the attorneys felt this way to begin with, what is glaring from the map is that it disrupted the Hispanic voting population to drastically help the Republican side. If this map was drawn in a fair manner, and it did not draw through communities, then it might make sense regarding the political side only. Smith claimed it was not racial, and it may not have been. However, if the political side of this was to move Hispanics around to fit the Republican party, then there is clearly an illegal action taking place. Gerrymandering in its own term is undemocratic, but this is the type of thing that comes from it anyway.
Texas Democratic Party chair, Gilberto Hinojosa was very happy with the ruling made by the other two judges and would claim the following.
“Republicans in Texas have ensured that the dark days of discrimination in Texas continue to loom. The sun will soon shine.”
Perhaps the fairness hopefully made by putting an end to things and showing the illegal nature of this may help Texas in various ways, not just the minorities of the state. Regardless of what political side you find yourself on, it is not wrong to think that voting should be done to affect a district in as far a way as humanly possible. If not, then the vote would be worthless in the end as it wouldn’t matter if the elections were already settled before they started through this process.