Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Redistricting Map Upheld

The Supreme Court on Wednesday threw out part but kept most of a Texas congressional map engineered by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

At issue was the shifting of 100,000 Hispanics out of a district represented by a Republican incumbent and into a new, oddly shaped district. Justices had been told that was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander under the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority-voting rights. Districts must be redrawn every 10 years to reflect population changes, but Republicans redrew the map a second time in a decade after taking power.
Hispanic voters had said the 2003 redistricting did not protect them as required by the Voting Rights Act, and the court agreed by a vote of 5 to 4. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said Hispanics do not have a chance to elect a candidate of their choosing under the plan.

The fractured decision was a small victory for Democratic and minority groups who accused Republicans of an unconstitutional power grab in drawing boundaries that booted four Democratic incumbents out of office. However, it was a victory for the Republican’s as well, and sadly their victory is bigger. Republicans picked up six Texas congressional seats two years ago, and the court's ruling does not seriously threaten those gains. Lawmakers, however, will have to adjust boundary lines to address the court's concerns. This will be done, but the question now is how often? The decision effectively means districts could change as often as the party in power does, as long as the changes do not disenfranchise minority voters.

Such a ruling by the ideologically, if not, legally, conservative Supreme Court is most interesting for one reason. The entire basis of being a constitutional strict constructionist is pointing to what the Constitution states. An electoral boundary based off of decade-by-decade census is clear-cut. How the Court’s decision and its main proponents can effectively explain such rationale is amusing. For the American citizen a warning: where you live nor your Congressional representative will never be the same.

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