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NY Times Opposes Texas Gerrymandering
NY Times
Editoral Board
December 14, 2005

The Supreme Court agreed this week to review Texas' 2003 Congressional redistricting, which added five Republicans to the state's delegation. The plan, engineered by the former House majority leader Tom DeLay, is rightly being challenged as partisan and discriminatory against minority voters. It is encouraging that the court has decided to step in.

Mr. DeLay's 2003 redrawing of Texas' Congressional district lines threw aside the longstanding tradition that new lines are drawn only every 10 years, after the census. The purpose of this heavy-handed line-drawing was purely to increase the number of Republican districts. It worked. The number of Republicans in the delegation went to 21 from 16, helping to entrench Mr. DeLay as majority leader.

The Supreme Court expressed reluctance last year, in a case challenging Pennsylvania's Congressional district boundaries, to second-guess partisan redistricting. But Justice Anthony Kennedy, who provided the crucial fifth vote against allowing the case to proceed, wrote separately to say that the court might act differently in a future redistricting case if "workable standards" could be found. The extraordinarily bare-knuckled Texas redistricting provides another chance to develop such standards. The vote of Chief Justice John Roberts, whose views on partisan redistricting are not known, could also be pivotal.

The Texas case also raises unusually strong claims that the voting strength of minority voters was illegally diluted. According to a recently uncovered memo, the eight career Justice Department employees assigned to review the plan in 2003 unanimously concluded that it violated the Voting Rights Act. But political appointees at Justice overruled their objections and approved it anyway.

This case's impact is likely to be felt far beyond Texas. If Texas' district lines are upheld, legislators in other states will have a green light to ignore voters, and the Voting Rights Act, and draw lines for partisan advantage. The founding fathers intended the House of Representatives to be the body of government closest to the people. But the House has become increasingly insulated from the voters because of gerrymandering that protects incumbents, reserves seats for particular parties and makes contested elections a rarity.

The Supreme Court now has a chance to reverse this trend and uphold the right to cast ballots where they can make a difference.

Who thinks the right wing fascists on the Supreme Court (who gave Bush the presidency in 2000) are going to stop DeLay and the GOP from gerrymandering and destroying our rights? Not me.