Federal Judges Invalidate Two Texas Districts

“Federal judges invalidated two Texas congressional districts Tuesday, ruling that they must be fixed by either the Legislature or a federal court,” the Texas Tribune reports.

“The judges found that Hispanic voters in congressional district 27, represented by Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX), were ‘intentionally deprived of their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.’ Congressional district 35 — a central Texas district represented by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) — was deemed ‘an impermissible racial gerrymander’ because lawmakers illegally used race as the predominant factor in drawing it, the judges wrote.”

Obama Will Raise Money for Democratic Effort

Barack Obama “will formally reenter the political fray this week less than six months after leaving office, headlining a fundraiser for a group that could prove critical to the Democratic Party’s rebuilding efforts,” the Washington Post reports.

“Obama’s appearance Thursday before a few dozen people at a closed-door event in the District on behalf of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee highlights the balance he is trying to strike as his party seeks to regain its footing at both the state and national levels.”

Supreme Court Will Rule on Gerrymandering

“The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear a potential landmark case that addresses how far lawmakers can go in choosing their voters, rather than the other way around,” USA Today reports.

“Venturing into what one justice recently called the ‘always unsavory’ process of drawing election districts for partisan advantage, the court will try to set a standard — something it has failed to do in the past.”

Washington Post: “The justices regularly are called to invalidate state electoral maps that have been illegally drawn to reduce the influence of racial minorities by depressing the impact of their votes. But the Supreme Court has never found a plan unconstitutional because of partisan gerrymandering. If it does, it would have a revolutionary impact on the reapportionment that comes after the 2020 election, and could come at the expense of Republicans, who control the process in the majority of states.”

Rick Hasen: “This case represents the last best chance for a Court to rein in excesses of partisan gerrymandering, while Justice Kennedy, who has been the swing vote on this issue, remains on the Court.”

Republicans Worry Texas Map May Be Blown Up

Several congressional Republicans told the Texas Tribune they want Gov. Greg Abbott (R) “to call a special session to redraw the Congressional lines. They believe such a maneuver would put their allies in the state legislature in the driver’s seat, circumventing Republicans’ worst fear: that a panel of federal judges will draw a less favorable map of its own.”

“The problem with that strategy? Austin has no appetite for it — largely, state Republicans argue, because it would make no legal sense in the latest battle of the state’s campaign to preserve its current maps.”

Supreme Court Strikes Down North Carolina Maps

“The Supreme Court ruled Monday that racial considerations pervaded the way North Carolina lawmakers drew congressional maps after the 2010 Census in order to maximize Republicans’ advantage,” USA Today reports.

“The 5-3 ruling, written by Justice Elena Kagan, was the latest in a series of decisions by the justices against the excessive use of race in redistricting, the decennial process of drawing new district lines for Congress and state legislatures.”

Democrats Start Redistricting Fundraising

Politico: “Democrats leading the party’s new effort to coordinate political and legal resources to redraw state legislatures’ and House of Representatives’ maps will kick off the first phase of fundraising next weekend, heading to San Francisco on Saturday and Los Angeles on Sunday to make their case to some of California’s biggest donors.”

“Former Attorney General Eric Holder — who’s chairing the National Democratic Redistricting Committee — will be joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe.”

Federal Court Voids 3 Districts In Texas

“A federal court panel late Friday invalidated three Republican-drawn congressional districts in Texas, including one in Travis County, for violating the U.S. Voting Rights Act,” the Austin American-Statesman reports.

“However, in voiding the districts, drawn by the Texas Legislature in 2011, the panel did not mandate or discuss any remedies to correct the problems.”

“But the long-awaited ruling has the potential to create more districts with larger populations of Latino voters, ‘and probably more Democratic districts, which would be good for Democrats in Texas, and also nationally.'”

Redistricting Battles Have Already Begun

Stuart Rothenberg: “While the 2020 census is still three years away, the fight for control of the congressional redistricting process is underway — in developing gubernatorial contests in a handful of key states.”

“Although the 2018 and 2020 electoral results could change things dramatically, it now appears that three states will be at the front lines in the partisan congressional redistricting battle: Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Each will elect a governor next year who, because of the veto, will have a role in redistricting.”

“Republicans controlled redistricting in all three states after the last census, and they were very aggressive in drawing maps that maximized their advantage.”

GOP Redistricting Maps Coming Under Fire

“Recent court decisions in three states are putting carefully carved Republican-drawn state legislative districts at risk — and could even threaten the entire process of partisan map drawing,” the Washington Post reports.

“On Friday, a federal court ordered Wisconsin legislatures to redraw their state House legislative districts after finding in November that the districts were unconstitutionally partisan. The order will essentially require lawmakers to redraw state Senate maps as well.”

“The November decision was the first time this decade that a court has thrown out legislative maps because they favored voters of one party over another. Subsequently, this will be the first time in a decade that lawmakers will have to redraw maps specifically to make them more fair for both parties.”

Obama Will Take on Republican Gerrymandering Next

New York Times: “Thwarted for much of his term by a confrontational Republican Congress, and criticized by his fellow Democrats for not devoting sufficient attention to their down-ballot candidates, Mr. Obama has decided to make the byzantine process of legislative redistricting a central political priority in his first years after the presidency.”

“Emerging as Mr. Obama’s chief collaborator and proxy is Eric H. Holder Jr., the former attorney general of the United States and a personal friend of the president. He has signed on to lead the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a newly formed political group aimed at untangling the creatively drawn districts that have helped cement the Republican Party in power in Washington and many state capitals.”

Wisconsin Redistricting Unfairly Favored GOP

“A panel of three federal judges said on Monday that the Wisconsin Legislature’s 2011 redrawing of State Assembly districts to favor Republicans was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, the first such ruling in three decades of pitched legal battles over the issue,” the New York Times reports.

“Federal courts have struck down gerrymanders on racial grounds, but not on grounds that they unfairly give advantage to a political party — the more common form of gerrymandering. The case could now go directly to the Supreme Court, where its fate may rest with a single justice, Anthony M. Kennedy, who has expressed a willingness to strike down partisan gerrymanders but has yet to accept a rationale for it.”