Yes, the case against Harris County’s redistricting map is back in court this week.
The redistricting resulted from the 2010 census, which showed population growth in the county’s west and north was outpacing that in the south and east, requiring new lines to make the precincts roughly equal at about 1 million residents each.
The county’s map added a bloc of reliably conservative voters in the northeast to Precinct 2, and reduced the precinct’s concentration of Hispanic citizens of voting age from 34.9 percent to 33.8 percent, Dunn said. An interim map for use in this fall’s elections, drawn as part of the lawsuit by U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmorelast year, put that number at 40.4 percent.
Republicans and the County Attorneys office have argued that Precinct 2 was not a protected district; therefore, the DOJ pre-cleared the map. The fight attempted to create a chasm between African Americans and Latinos given the basis for the County’s argument.
County officials say the need to protect Precinct 1, a black-opportunity district under the Voting Rights Act, made it difficult to add Latinos to Precinct 2 because they share a long border. Dunn said he will show both precincts can be drawn as minority-opportunity districts.
The U.S. Department of Justice “pre-cleared” Harris County’s redistricting map last year, saying it did not violate Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Dunn and Ray said that is because the Justice Department agreed Precinct 2 did not have protected status and could be altered. Dunn said he will argue, under Section 2 of the act, that the precinct should be declared a protected district.
This is definitely something on which to keep an eye. I think there is a solution; perhaps, the current interim make-up which puts Latinos citizens of voting age at 40% of Precinct 2’s population. Ultimately, this is about fairness, and not about Jack Morman.