If there’s one thing Texas seems to do well, that has to be disenfranchise and suppress minority voters. After the mostly Republican state legislature drew maps that were clearly, undeniably discriminatory from the 2010 census, minority rights groups immediately moved to sue for fairer maps. Now, for the majority of the decade, the state’s redistricting process has been caught up in court.
As Alexa Ura of the Texas Tribune reports, the Redistricting War now enters year 8 as the Supreme Court finally wades in, this time at the request of Republicans…
Further extending a drawn-out legal battle, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear a case over whether Texas’ congressional and House district boundaries discriminate against voters of color.
The Supreme Court’s decision to weigh the state’s appeal will further delay any redrawing efforts even after almost seven years of litigation between state attorneys and voting andminority rights groups that challenged the maps. It’s unclear when the court will schedule oral arguments in the case, which is formally known as Abbott v. Perez.
In ruling against the maps last year, a three-judge panel in San Antonio sided with the voting and minority rights groups who accused Republican lawmakers of discriminating against voters of color, who tend to vote for Democrats, in drawing the maps. The state has denied targeting voters by race and admitted instead to practicing partisan gerrymandering by overtly favoring Republicans in drawing the districts.
The panel specifically flagged two congressional districts and nine House districts in four counties as problematic. But the Supreme Court in September temporarily blocked the lower court rulings — and any efforts to redraw the maps — in two 5-4 decisions as it considered the appeal from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.
So in case you missed that, Texas Republicans are only denying blatant gerrymandering based on race, but they’re perfectly fine with blatant gerrymandering based on political party.
But at some point, the buck on this type of behavior has to stop. Surely the 9 Justices of the Supreme Court are smart enough to see the unfairness of of one neighborhood like Houston’s diverse Museum District being sliced, or cracked between three Congressional Districts (because you know, minorities). The practice of extreme gerrymandering, in combination with the state’s stringent Voter ID laws, should be more than enough evidence o the wrong that has been done. Even if the Republicans consider this a win, let’s hope it also presents an opportunity for fairness.
Y’all ready for this Two-Step? Here’s Part 1 in case you missed it.
Along with strong support in the suburbs, The incredible surge of African-American voter turnout also proved to be a big boost for Jones. Black voters showed up at historic levels to support the Democrat.
But the key here? It wasn’t just turnout in the cities or the suburbs, but Alabama’s Black voters in rural counties also voted in force. More on this from Van Newkirk of The Atlantic…
Exit polls showed that black voters made a big splash. TheWashington Post’s exit polls indicated that black voters would make up 28 percent of the voters, greater than their 26 percent share of the population, which would be a dramatic turnaround from previous statewide special elections in the South, including a special election for the Sixth District in Georgia, which saw black support for Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff dissipate on Election Day.
As the Cook Political Report editor Dave Wasserman noted on Twitter, turnout was particularly high in the counties with the largest black populations. In Greene County, a small area that is 80 percent black and that Martin Luther King Jr. frequented in his Poor People’s Campaign, the turnout reached 78 percent of that of 2016, an incredible mark given that special elections and midterms usually fall far short of general-election marks. Perry County, also an important mostly black site of voting-rights battles of old, turned out at 75 percent of 2016 levels. Dallas County, whose seat is the city of Selma, hit the 74 percent mark. And while the exact numbers aren’t in for all of the majority-black or heavily black counties, black voters appear to have favored Jones at rates close to or more than 90 percent.
It’s always an unsure proposition to play “identity politics”, but for a whole host of reasons, African-Americans have become one of the most reliable, most well-informed and most consistent voting blocks in the nation. And by and large, they show up to vote for Democrats. So it should be no surprise that if Black voter turnout is high, it spells trouble for most Republicans. Remember all of those ultra-stringent Voter ID laws Texas (and Alabama) keep passing? Yeah they’re aimed squarely at weakening the Black vote.
While the recent dogma for Texas Democrats has been to pour all of our resources into a precious few urban centers, 2018 offers an opportunity to branch out and reconnect with voters across the state. As this week’s victory in Alabama shows, there’s no better place to start on this journey than with the state’s many rural black communities. Thanks to a strong, dedicated organizational network, much of the infrastructure is already in place to reach out to these communities. But Democrats have to make the first move. Especially for statewide candidates like those running for U.S. Senate, Governor or Lieutenant Governor, now is the time to build these connections and plan for a true statewide campaign.
In the interest of this issue, Texas Leftist has created a special graphic. Using data from the 2016 US census estimate and compiled by the Texas Association of Counties’ County Information Program, the graphic shows counties which have an African-American population of 10 percent or higher. Maps like this one could help to reveal additional opportunities for candidates, especially those looking to mount a statewide or State Senate election. As you can see, there are many strong African-American communities in areas of rural Texas.
In Black: Counties with African- American Populations of 20 percent or more… Anderson, Bell, Bowie, Dallas, Falls, Fort Bend, Gregg, Harrison, Houston, Jefferson, Madison, Marion, Morris, Newton, Robertson, San Augustine, Walker and Waller.
In Green: Counties with African-American Populations of 15 percent to 19.99 percent… Angelina, Camp, Cass, Coryell, Freestone, Grimes, Harris, Jasper, Limestone, McLennan, Nacogdoches, Panola, Red River, Shelby, Smith, Tarrant and Washington.
In Red: Counties with African-American Populations of 10 percent to 14.99 percent… Brazoria, Brazos, Burleson, Cherokee, Childress, Colorado, Cottle, Denton, Ellis, Galveston, Jones, Kaufman, Lamar, Lee, Liberty, Matagorda, Mitchell, Navarro, Polk, Potter, San Jacinto, Titus, Tyler, Wharton and Wichita.
With information like the above and in the previous post, Democrats and Progressives running for statewide office can better utilize their resources and construct a campaign that reaches beyond the traditional urban strongholds, to voters ready to carry their message forward.
Thankfully some candidates have already gotten the message. El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who is challenging Ted Cruz for Texas’ seat in the United States Senate, pledged back in April to visit every single one of the massive state’s 254 counties. He’s off to an impressive start, having visited 155 counties as of last month. But even in the case of his trailblazing campaign, information like the above may be of benefit.
So there you have it. Even days before the new year, 2018 has already gotten very interesting for Texas Democrats. Let’s hope the party can use the momentum to its advantage, and help create a better state for us all.
Juanita is seeking support for Glen Maxey’s ballot by mail program.
The TSTA Blog sees through the latest school finance “reform” idea.
Last week the 2016 Summer Olympics commenced in Rio, and so far it has been a banner games for Team USA. Texas Leftist wishes our amazing Texas athletes and all of Team USA good luck and a great competition in Rio. The Dallas Morning News has a great interactive page tracking Texas athletes and what events for which they compete by day. Hope y’all bring home the gold!!