Texas has a response this week to the Justice Department's new plan to regain oversight over some state election laws using provisions of the Voting Rights Act left intact by a recent Supreme Court ruling: the state's voting laws discriminate against Democrats, not minorities, implying that the state sees nothing wrong with a little bit of good, old-fashioned gerrymandering.
Back in July, Attorney General Eric Holder laid out a plan to resume federal oversight of Texas's voting laws, which until recently were subject to pre-clearance by the federal government, by using a provision that allows for federal oversight when there's evidence of current or recent racial discrimination. Texas has two big election law provisions that the state is going ahead with after the Supreme Court invalidated the current formula used to determine which states and districts require federal oversight based on discrimination: their 2011 district maps, drawn by the Republican majority in the state government, and their voter ID laws. Holder is focusing on the former of the two by throwing his weight behind an existing lawsuit from Democrats in the state challenging the map as discriminatory. As flagged by the Election Law Blog, here's the key passage fromTexas's 46-page reply:
DOJ's accusations of racial discrimination are baseless. In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party's electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats. . . . The redistricting decisions of which DOJ complains were motivated by partisan rather than racial considerations, and the plaintiffs and DOJ have zero evidence to prove the contrary.
Of course, it's not that easy to separate the question of race and political party, especially in Texas. The state's minority population vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, and the new district map in question reduces the number of districts in which minority voters make up the majority, despite the fact that most of the population growth in the state (giving them four new congressional seats based on the 2010 census) is attributable to Hispanics and Blacks. But the State of Texas is banking on the difficulties of proving racial, rather than political, motivations in court.
As for the State's Voter ID law, Texas also took action against the Justice Department's plan to gain oversight over that law, too: on Thursday, the state filed a motion to dismiss a case challenging that law, based on the fact that it's already in effect, as SCOTUSblog explains.