Texas' Redistricting News
(October 20, 2001-November 19, 2001)

 Roll Call: "Between the Lines (excerpt)." November 19, 2001
 Dallas Morning News: "Judges Aimed to Keep Status Quo With District Map." November 18, 2001
 Dallas Morning News: "State GOP's remap plan is rejected." November 17, 2001
 Dallas Morning News: "Department of Justice Rejects Cornyn Plan for Texas House." November 16, 2001
 San Francisco Chronicle: "Department of Justice Rejects Part of Redistricting Plan for Texas House." November 16, 2001
 Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Lawmaker Sees Green Grass in New District." November 16, 2001
 Austin American-Statesman: "New District Map Favors U.S. House Incumbents." November 15, 2001
 Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "N. Texas Gains House Seat in Redistricting." November 15, 2001
 Washington Post: "Court Approves Texas Redistricting Plan." November 15, 2001
 Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "New District Seat Draws Candidates Galore." November 15, 2001
 Washington Times: "Redistricting Dampens GOP Hopes in Texas." November 15, 2001
 Houston Chronicle: "New U.S. House Map Saves All Seats."
November 15, 2001
 Roll Call: "New Texas Map Protects Members. "November 15, 2001
 New York Times: "Court Thwarts G.O.P. Hopes for Big Gains in Texas Seats." November 15, 2001
 Los Angeles Times: "Court Creates Congressional Districts." November 14, 2001
 Dallas Morning News: "Crucial Redistricting Battle Is On." November 14, 2001
 San Antonio Express-News: "Lacking a Ruling From Feds, Remap Judges Restart Process." November 9, 2001
 Dallas Morning News: "Court Finds Politics Drove Texas Senate Redistricting." November 7, 2001
 Houston Chronicle: "Cornyn Wanted GOP District Switch." November 6, 2001
 Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Ratliff Questions Panel's Action." November 6, 2001
 Dallas Morning News: "Texas Senate Districts Under Microscope in Trial." November 5, 2001
 Houston Chronicle: "RedistrictingÝs Gray Area Debated." November 4, 2001
 Dallas Morning News: "Remap Case Goes to Judges." November 3, 2001
 Fort Worth Star-Telegram: "Redistricting Case Proceeds." November 3, 2001
 San Antonio Express-News: "House Remap Trial Nears End." November 2, 2001
 Dallas Morning News: "Map Should Reflect Ethnic Growth, All Agree." October 23, 2001
 Associated Press: "Court to Review Texas Redistricting." October 22, 2001
 Roll Call: "Between the Lines (excerpt)." October 22, 2001 
 Amarillo Globe-News : "Court Nixes Redistricting Plan." October 20, 2001

More recent Texas redistricting news

Texas' redistricting news from July 2, 2001 - October 19, 2001

Texas' redistricting news from February 26, 2001 - June 30, 2001

 

Roll Call
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By John Mercurio
November 19, 2001

Texas Two-Step

Following two cycles as a top Democratic target, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) will run in a new, open district created to be a Republican stronghold. His move could create a battleground in the Dallas-area district he would vacate.

Spokesman Adrian Plesha said Sessions will run in the state's new 32nd district, a Dallas County seat drawn by a federal three-judge panel as one of two seats Texas gained in reapportionment. "The district contains part of his current district, and it's clearly compatible with his pro-business, conservative philosophy," Plesha said Friday.

Plesha said Sessions prefers the compact nature of the new district and hopes to become the party's chief conservative spokesman in Dallas . "For all intents and purposes, [House Majority Leader] Dick Armey [R] has a Dallas district, but he clearly has a constituency up here that keeps him busy. And [Rep.] Sam Johnson [R] doesn't really have a Dallas base."

Lone Star Democrats promptly said they would compete for his old 5th district seat, where Sessions never broke 56 percent. "It would be a competitive seat, and I think there would be some good candidates interested," Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost (Texas) told the Dallas Morning News.

Under the map unveiled by the court last Wednesday, Democrats received an average of 39 percent in 2000 statewide races in Sessions' current district, while Republicans received 61 percent. In the new 32nd district, Democrats received 34 percent in statewide races, while Republicans took 66 percent, according to the Texas Legislative Council.

Dallas Morning News
Judges Aimed to Keep Status Quo With District Map
By Sam Attlesey
November 18, 2001

In redrawing the state's 32 congressional districts, a three-judge federal court panel used what was referred to as "the least-change" approach.

In other words, the judges, who were seeking to be as nonpolitical as possible, tried to draw the lines as similarly to the existing boundaries as possible.

The only problem was that Texas is getting two new congressional districts because of population growth. So the judges had to fit in two new districts while still using their least-change map.

It may have been a least-change map, but the order creating new boundaries stirred up a hornet's next in Texas politics, particularly in the Dallas area because one of the new districts is located in northern Dallas County.

Many analysts believed the new solidly Republican District 32 was a perfect fit for state Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell.

So did Mr. Marchant, until he got a phone call from U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas, saying he was thinking about moving into the new District 32 and abandoning the adjoining 5th District he has represented for several terms.

Now, it's official that Mr. Sessions will, indeed, move to the new district, leaving the 5th District wide open and making Mr. Marchant favor seeking re-election to the statehouse.

Without an incumbent, Democrats believe they have a shot at the 5th, which is only slightly tilted to favor Republicans. State Sen. David Cain, D-Dallas, and state Rep. Clyde Alexander, D-Athens, have been mentioned as potential candidates. On the Republican side, Jeb Hensarling, a former aide to U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, is expected to be one of the GOP favorites.

The other new seat will be a solidly Republican District 31 that stretches from Round Rock to the Houston suburbs. There are expected to be several GOP candidates seeking that seat, including State Sen. Steve Ogden of Bryan, who many consider the early favorite.

While the GOP got the two new districts, the 17 Democratic incumbents and the 13 Republican incumbents all can probably win re-election under the court-ordered redistricting plan.

That is a big blow to Republicans who were hoping to pick up between six and eight new seats here to help bolster their slim majority in Congress.

"Without large gains in Texas, Republicans' redistricting rhetoric is no longer credible, so GOP strategists better devise some new spin for how they keep the House in 2002," said U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas, who heads up the national redistricting campaign for Democrats.

"The ruling recognizes that Texas is a two-party state, not a Republican state," said state Democratic Party leader Molly Beth Malcolm. "By preserving the strong bipartisan leadership in the Texas delegation, the plan is good for Texas."

She said Democrats hold a majority in the state congressional delegation because "many independent Texas voters split their tickets to vote for conservative and moderate Democrats who do a great job representing their communities."

"The Republicans wanted to use a map to take that choice away from voters, and the court said no," said Ms. Malcolm.

Republicans were disappointed, but their comments were somewhat reserved, in part because they don't want to anger the two Democratic judges and one GOP judge on the federal panel.

The panel still has pending before it maps redrawing state legislative boundaries.

"The federal court took a small but important step towards remedying the severe gerrymandering of 1991. A majority of Texans supported Republican candidates for Congress in the last two elections, and in accordance with the will of voters, Republicans will gain congressional seats under the court's ruling," said state GOP chief Susan Weddington.

Some Republicans believe the minor changes made to the Central Texas district held by U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco make him vulnerable to a strong GOP challenger.

But Mr. Edwards said he felt good about his chances for re-election.

"I have been elected to represent the 11th Congressional District six times by residents who will comprise 92.7 percent of this new district," he said. "That is a tremendous advantage to me."

Sam Attlesey is deputy chief of the Austin Bureau of The Dallas Morning News.

Dallas Morning News
State GOP's remap plan is rejected; Justice officials say House district outline would hurt Hispanics
By Sam Attlesey
November 17, 2001

The Department of Justice on Friday refused to endorse a Republican-drawn House redistricting plan because it could cost the re-election chances of three Hispanic lawmakers.

After reviewing the map redrawing the 150 Texas House districts, the federal agency said the plan "will lead to a prohibited retrogression in the position of minorities ... by causing a net loss of three districts."

It was unclear what effect the ruling would have on the House redistricting trial being held by a three-judge federal court panel in Austin. The judges are considering the Republican plan as well as one of more than a dozen other House plans that were proposed by Democrats and civil-rights groups.

Analysts said because the Department of Justice has objected to the GOP map, it is unlikely that federal judges will adopt it.

The map was drawn by three statewide officials who are members of the Legislative Redistricting Board. The board was appointed to redraw legislative districts after lawmakers filed to do so during the regular legislative session.

Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, a member of the board who drafted the House plan, said he was "pleased that the Department of Justice has approved 98 percent of the House plan."

He said that he would address the objections made by the federal agency in a new plan that he will submit to the three-judge panel next week.

Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, said the board's map "was a disservice to Hispanics throughout the state."

"The DOJ's action affirms what has been evident all along ˝ the LRB map violates the Voting Rights Act and denies Hispanics the ability to effectively participate in the political process," said Mr. Gallego, chairman of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus.

All Texas redistricting plans must be submitted to the federal agency where officials determine whether they violate the Voting Rights Act.

The House districts objected to by the Justice Department are in Bexar County, the Rio Grande Valley, and southwest Texas.

The Department of Justice said it found no other violations of the Voting Rights Act in other parts of the GOP-drawn map.

Dallas Morning News
Department of Justice Rejects Cornyn Plan for Texas House
By Connie Mabin
November 16, 2001

The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday rejected part of a Republican-backed plan that redraws Texas House districts, saying a portion of the map violates the federal Voting Rights Act by denying Hispanics opportunities to elect candidates of their choice.

While Democrats and minority advocates applauded the decision, Republicans pointed to the department's approval of the rest of the map as a positive.

"I am confident that the department's letter can be fully and completely addressed with minor alterations," said Attorney General John Cornyn, a Republican. He would present a corrected map in court next week, he said.

Cornyn chaired the GOP-dominated Legislative Redistricting Board, which approved the plan when state lawmakers failed to complete the once-a-decade job of redrawing voting lines based on new census numbers.

Democrats and minority groups have been critical of the plan, which is at the center of a federal court case in Austin. How the state's 20.8 million people are divided into 150 state House districts for the next election now will be decided by a three-judge panel.

The Justice Department's decision is key because the judges had been waiting to see if they could use the LRB map as a starting point in the case, as Republicans had pushed for.

Advocates say the fast-growing Hispanic population should equal more legislative representation. Hispanics accounted for 60 percent of the state's 3.9 million new people in the 1990s, according to the census.

"John Cornyn's map was a disservice to Hispanics throughout the state," said state Rep. Pete Gallego, a Democrat from Alpine who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.

"We are pleased that the Justice Department recognized that the LRB House plan was a step backward for Latinos in Texas," said Nina Perales, an attorney with the nonprofit Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, one of the groups challenging the plan in court.

Cornyn has said his plan boosted the number of Hispanic districts in the Texas House from 31 to 34.

But in a letter to Texas' acting Secretary of State Geoffrey Connor, the department's Civil Rights Division said the LRB's proposed map hurt Hispanic voters by causing a loss of one Hispanic-majority district.

The plan was wrong to force two high-ranking Hispanic lawmakers from South Texas, Reps. Roberto Gutierrez and Juan Hinojosa, both Democrats from McAllen, to run against each other, the letter said.

Also, the way the board drew a district in Cameron County held by Rep. Jim Solis, D-Harlingen, Hispanics could not elect a candidate, the department said.

The department also determined that Hispanic voting strength in Gallego's West Texas district was hurt under the LRB plan.

Republicans are hoping for a new map that could help them win a House majority. Democrats hope the map will help them maintain their 78-72 hold on the chamber.

State GOP chairwoman Susan Weddington said she believed the LRB plan created future opportunities for Hispanics and hoped the federal court would order a map based on the Republican-leaning districts the Justice Department did approve so "Texans will finally have their voice heard and Republicans will gain seats in the Legislature."

Texas Democratic Party chairwoman Molly Beth Malcolm said the Justice Department's ruling "reinforced what we have said all along. Republicans put partisan interests over the state's best interests when drawing the new maps. Minority voting strength was the last thing on the Republicans' minds during the redistricting process."

San Francisco Chronicle
Department of Justice Rejects Part of Redistricting Plan for Texas House
By Connie Mabin
November 16, 2001

The U.S. Department of Justice on Friday rejected part of a Republican-backed plan that redraws Texas House districts, saying part of the map violates the federal Voting Rights Act.

The department's Civil Rights Division said in a letter to Texas state officials that the proposed map hurt Hispanic voters by causing a loss of one Hispanic-majority district.

Attorney General John Cornyn, a Republican, had said his plan boosted the number of Hispanic districts in the Texas House from 31 to 34. He said he planned to present a revised map in court next week.

"I am confident that the department's letter can be fully and completely addressed with minor alterations," Cornyn said.

Cornyn chaired the GOP-dominated Legislative Redistricting Board, which approved the plan when state lawmakers failed to complete the once-a-decade job of redrawing voting lines based on new census numbers.

Democrats and minority groups have been critical of the plan, which is at the center of a federal court case in Austin. How the state's 20.8 million people are divided into 150 state House districts for the next election now will be decided by a three-judge panel.

The Justice Department's decision is key because the judges had been waiting to see if they could use that map as a starting point in the case, as Republicans had pushed for.

Advocates say the fast-growing Hispanic population should equal more legislative representation. Hispanics accounted for 60 percent of the state's 3.9 million new people in the 1990s, according to the census.

"We are pleased that the Justice Department recognized that the LRB House plan was a step backward for Latinos in Texas," said Nina Perales, an attorney with the nonprofit Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, one of the groups challenging the plan in court.

Republicans are hoping for a new map that could help them win a House majority. Democrats hope the map will help them maintain their 78-72 hold on the chamber.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Lawmaker Sees Green Grass in New District
By Maria Recio
November 16, 2001

A Dallas incumbent is still mulling a move to a more favorable district. Texas' new congressional map created a North Texas district so attractive and so favorable to a Republican that the GOP congressman from a neighboring district, Pete Sessions of Dallas, is wasting no time in staking a claim to it.

Sessions, who has the blessing of House Majority Leader Dick Armey, R-Flower Mound, is considering switching districts, even if state Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, is expected to get the nod for the seat.

"After reviewing the newly drawn congressional lines, Congressman Sessions is now seriously considering running in what will be the 32nd district," said Adrian Plesha, Sessions' communication director.

The new district "contains parts of his current district," said Plesha, and "is very compatible with his pro-business conservative philosophy and is home to his children's schools and many of his friends and supporters."

Marchant, R-Coppell, said he won't make a final decision to enter the race until he learns Sessions' definite plans. He said he has discussed the situation with Sessions and is waiting to hear back from the congressman.

"I'm going to take the next few days to consider what I should do," said Marchant, a state representative since 1987. "I owe it to my constituency to continue to look at it."

And although talk on Thursday in Washington may have revolved around Sessions, talk closer to home, at the state Capitol, focused on Marchant.

"The only buzz here is on Marchant and that he should and will run," said Bill Miller, an Austin-based political consultant who works with candidates from both major parties. "That is probably reaching Sessions.

"Maybe he's a little miffed that the talk isn't about him," he said. "So his indecision may be a way to generate talk about himself, put him into consideration."

Armey, in an interview with Texas reporters, said that Sessions had consulted with him about the possibility of switching districts and that he supports Sessions' wish to represent the more compact district, which would require less travel timethan does his current, far-flung district.

"He's a very dedicated family man," said Armey. "This is not an easy life under any circumstances. I can only applaud him for having the desire to spend more time with his wife and family."

Armey said he is confident that Sessions' existing 5th district seat will stay Republican if Sessions runs in the new district.

On the national ramifications of the redistricting, Armey said that the new judicially drawn map was devised "for the most prurient of interests - incumbent protection."

However, Armey said he believes that the new map gives the GOP some chance at picking up additional seats. Currently, the Democrats enjoy a 17-13 advantage in the Texas delegation.

Texas received an additional two districts because the 2000 Census shows that the state population grew by 3.9 million.

U.S. District Court Judges T. John Ward and John Hannah Jr. of Tyler and federal appeals court Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham of Dallas drew the map after the state Legislature did not act.

Staff writers Anna Tinsley and Ginger D. Richardson contributed to this report.

Austin American-Statesman
New District Map Favors U.S. House Incumbents
By Laylan Copelin
November 15, 2001

Federal judges lightly tipped the political scales Wednesday when they issued a new congressional map that won't pit incumbents against one another while creating two new Republican-leaning districts in Dallas County and Central Texas.

A new district without an incumbent stretches from Round Rock to the Houston suburbs and includes Bryan-College Station, creating a chain reaction of opportunities for officials in that region.

"I'm sure there are a lot of Williamson County elected officials looking at the map and wondering if it was drawn for them," said Bill Fairbrother, the county's GOP chairman.

The three judges denied requests by Latino activists for new districts with Hispanic majorities in Dallas and South Texas and rejected arguments for another African American district in Houston. The judges' plan, adopted unanimously, appeared to make as few changes as possible while adding the new districts dictated by the state's exploding population.

"Political gerrymandering, a purely partisan exercise, is inappropriate for a federal court drawing a congressional redistricting map," the judges wrote. "Even at the hands of a legislative body, political gerrymandering is much a blood feud, in which revenge is exacted by the majority against its rival. We have left it to the political arena, as we must and wisely should."

Democrats pronounced the decision a victory, while Susan Weddington, the state GOP chairwoman, called the plan "a small but important step" for Republicans. Political analysts say the current partisan split in the delegation, 17 Democrats and 13 Republicans, may change little beyond Republicans winning the two new seats.

Although the judges' decision may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the map is likely to survive long enough for the 2002 elections.

In Central Texas, under the new plan:

U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat, will continue to represent almost all of Austin and the eastern half of Travis County. Western Travis County, as well as western Hays, becomes part of a Hill Country district now represented by Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio.

Williamson County is split in half. Southern Williamson will be in District 31, one of the state's two new districts. That district includes Bastrop County north of the Colorado River and stretches east to Bryan-College Station and south to Houston suburbs. More than 200,000 Williamson County residents make up almost a third of the district, suggesting that the county will play a pivotal role in the election and could elect one of its own.

The northwestern portion of Williamson County, including a portion of Georgetown, will now be part of District 11, represented by Chet Edwards, D-Waco.

The San Marcos area, all of Caldwell and Bastrop County south of the Colorado River are in District 14, now represented by Ron Paul, R-Surfside.

After each census, the Legislature is required to redraw congressional maps to equalize the population among congressional districts. This year, however, the Legislature deadlocked and Gov. Rick Perry refused to call it back to try again. The Texas Supreme Court then ruled invalid a plan drawn by state District Judge Paul Davis of Travis County.

That left the political future of the state's congressional delegation in the hands of three federal judges: Patrick Higginbotham, a Dallas Republican on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Democrats John Hannah Jr. and John Ward on the district bench in Tyler.

An eye toward D.C.

Their decision could have national consequences.

Republicans had hoped to use gains in Texas to offset Democratic domination in other states and to maintain control of the U.S. House of Representatives. The partisan division of the House after the 2002 elections also could determine which Texan, U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, or U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas, has a leadership post in Congress.

To that end, DeLay had argued to state lawmakers that the GOP was entitled to 20 of the 30 seats and had urged maps that would have threatened Frost as the state's highest ranking Democrat in Congress.

So Frost celebrated the judges' decision: "Without large gains in Texas, Republicans' redistricting rhetoric is no longer credible, so GOP strategists had better devise some new spin for how they keep the House in 2002."

DeLay said the judges protected incumbents at the expense of minorities. He predicted the Legislature would take up congressional redistricting again in 2003: "I believe the responsibility for drawing congressional districts does not lie with the court but rather the state legislative body. I look forward to the state Legislature addressing these issues during the next session."

Creating Latino districts

Although the stakes of redistricting are partisan, the battle often is fought in the courts to protect minority voting rights.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund brought the suit in federal court. Its lawyers argued that Hispanics accounted for 60 percent of the state's population growth and is entitled to two new districts.

"Nevertheless, the court overlooked the Latino community when deciding where to locate the new seats," MALDEF lawyer Nina Perales said. "We're dis- appointed."

But others, including both Democrats and Republicans, disagreed. U.S. Rep. Charles Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, testified that creating a new Hispanic district along the Mexican border could endanger the Hispanic majorities in other border districts.

In the Dallas area, the issue was whether Hispanics were too dispersed to be drawn into one district. In Houston, African Americans argued for another district.

The judges concluded that the law did not dictate new minority districts because neither Latinos nor African Americans are numerous enough in those areas to form effective, cohesive districts. The judges said they located the new districts where the population increase was greatest -- Dallas, Harris and Williamson counties.

Perales said MALDEF is weighing an appeal. But it's likely the higher court would postpone any changes until after the election.

Legislative districts

In the next few days, the judges also must decide the districts for the Legislature.

The lawyers in their court, many of whom have worked in the back-to-back redistricting trials, said they can predict little about the legislative maps from Wednesday's decision except that Latinos may lose their bid for more Senate districts.

The battle for the Legislature is very different than the congressional lawsuit. Instead of drawing a map from scratch, as the judges did in the congressional case, they have a Senate map created by a panel of state officials.

The case for the state House is more confusing. If the U.S. Department of Justice rules that the map drawn by state officials doesn't protect minority voters, then the judges could draw their own map. If at least part of the map is approved, then the judges likely will focus on just those districts.

The Justice Department has until Dec. 10 to act.

Filing for political office starts next month.

You may contact Laylan Copelin at lcopelin@statesman.com or 445-3617.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
N. Texas Gains House Seat in Redistricting
By Max B. Baker
November 15, 2001

North Texas gets a new congressional seat, but Hispanics do not get the districts they wanted in an anxiously anticipated redistricting plan ordered Wednesday by a three-judge federal court panel in Tyler.

The new Metroplex seat is in northwest Dallas County, and potential candidates immediately began lining up, most notably state Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell, and U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas.

Democrats consider the plan a victory because they are expected to maintain at least a 17-15 advantage in the Texas delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. They now have a 17-13 advantage over Republicans.

Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas, will continue to represent parts of Tarrant County in the map, while Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, gets more of the western part of the county and all of neighboring Parker County. Republicans Dick Armey of Flower Mound and Joe Barton of Ennis will also represent parts of Tarrant County.

The judges "were trying to strike a balance" that protects minority voting interests and incumbents, Frost said. "I think they came up with a reasoned and fair plan for the state of Texas."

Although the plaintiffs will probably appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, it is doubtful the high court will rule before next year's election, meaning that the new districts ordered Wednesday will probably stand, said Andy Taylor, the attorney representing the state of Texas.

"The state believes the federal panel did a good job under very difficult circumstances," Taylor said. "This is it. This is reality."

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is already considering an appeal.

"The court's redistricting plan represents no progress for Texas Latinos despite the fact that Latinos represent 60 percent of the growth in the state over the past decade," said Nina Perales, a MALDEF attorney.

Granger said she was "very pleased with the outcome in my district."

Barton lost the northwest Tarrant portion of his district to Granger but picked up Johnson County from Granger and Ellis and Navarro counties from Frost. He said he is happy that his district, which currently meanders in narrow strips through various parts of the region, is now more compact.

"It is very much a status quo plan," said Craig Murphy, an Arlington political consultant and former Barton staffer. "They did all they could do to make the districts more favorable to whoever currently holds them."

U.S. District Court Judges T. John Ward and John Hannah Jr. of Tyler and federal appeals court Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham of Dallas issued their ruling after conducting a trial in Austin earlier this month.

Nationally, Republicans were hoping to make significant gains in the Texas delegation and protect their control of the U.S. House of Representatives. But Democrats are predicting that the judges' plan would help them win back control of Congress in next year's elections.

"We have always said redistricting will result in a level playing field between Democrats and Republicans, and today's decision certainly affirms" that, said Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

There are 220 Republicans, 211 Democrats and two independents serving in the House.

The panel's ruling ends intensive speculation about how the judges would carve up the the state's congressional districts to reflect the results of the 2000 Census, in which the state's population grew by 3.9 million people, to a total of 20.8 million.

Redistricting occurs after each census. The responsibility for drawing a new map fell to the judges after the Texas Legislature did not do so during its recent session.

The judges said that they started with a blank map of Texas, but that they tried to "steer the required neutral course through this political sea."

As a check to make sure they remained neutral, the judges looked at Democrats and Republicans who held leadership posts, and "it was plain that these members were not harmed in their re-election prospects."

Although various groups encouraged the panel to create African-American and Latino districts, the judges said they found that too difficult.

Morris Overstreet, president of the Coalition of Black Democrats, said that the map wasn't exactly what black voters wanted but that the coalition is satisfied that District 25 in Houston - now held by U.S. Rep. Ken Bentsen, a Democrat - could be won by a black.

Bentsen is expected to run for the U.S. Senate.

The map set off a flurry of speculation about possible changes in the makeup of the Texas delegation after next year's election.

Until the ruling, Reps. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, and Charles Stenholm, D-Abilene, were considered vulnerable if their districts - which are predominantly Republican - were drastically changed. U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall, D-Dallas, is expected to keep his mostly GOP district.

People were lining up to run for the new District 32 seat in Dallas County, with Marchant and Sessions getting much of the attention.

In the new District 31, state Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, is being mentioned as a candidate, along with Republican state Reps. Mike Krusee of Round Rock, Lois Kolkhorst of Brenham and Talmadge Heflin of Houston.

"I think elections are won or lost on the electoral battlefields and not in the courtrooms," said Bryan Eppstein, a Fort Worth political consultant.

This report contains material from The Associated Press.

Max B. Baker, (817) 390-7714 maxbaker@star-telegram.com.

Washington Post
Court Approves Texas Redistricting Plan; Democrats Call Decision on New Boundaries 'Major Victory' in State, National Fight
By Thomas B. Edsall
November 15, 2001

A three-judge federal court yesterday unanimously approved new boundaries that Democrats immediately proclaimed as a major victory within Texas and in the national competition over redistricting.

The new plan, which faces only U.S. Supreme Court review, is "a major victory for Democrats," said Rep. Martin Frost (D-Tex.), who has coordinated the party's strategy in Texas and the rest of the country. He called it "a resounding defeat for Republican efforts to use redistricting to protect their slim congressional majority. The new districts will likely elect 17 Democrats, preserve our majority in the Texas delegation -- and leave us in a great position to win back the House of Representatives in 2002."

Sarah Weddington, Texas GOP chair, who had fought for a much larger share of the new districts, appeared resigned to the court ruling: "While we are disappointed that more was not done to reflect both Republican and minority growth in Texas over the past decade, the Republican Party is confident the court's ruling will result in new congressional districts that are at least more fair than existing districts." She noted the GOP will likely pick up the state's two new districts, although even with those gains, the Democrats are expected to emerge after 2002 with a 17-15 majority.

The Texas decision strengthens the Democrats' argument that neither party will gain a major advantage in the 2002 House elections as a result of redistricting. Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, contended that the GOP remains on track to emerge from redistricting with an eight- to 10-seat net gain nationally. But the court decision yesterday delighted many Democrats.

Through the 1990s, Republicans made substantial gains at every level in Texas, from the governorship and two Senate seats to other statewide races and legislative contests. The two new Republican-leaning seats are north of Dallas and between Austin and Houston.

The GOP pickup of the two new seats is a setback for Hispanic politicians in Texas who had argued that the huge gains in Hispanic population meant that at least one of the seats should have a Hispanic majority.

Rep. Ken Bentsen (D-Tex.), whose district had been effectively eliminated in a previous state court version of redistricting, was given a much more favorable district, but a spokesman said he still plans to run for the U.S. Senate.

Texas redistricting, which has been in the courts since the state Legislature could not reach an agreement, has periodically elated Republicans and Democrats. An earlier state court ruling was initially highly favorable to the GOP and appeared to be so devastating to the state's Democrats that national Democratic chances of taking back the House were almost out of reach. The same judge later rewrote his opinion to make it very beneficial for the Democrats, only to have that decision overruled by the state Supreme Court.

Fort Worth Star-Telegram
New District Seat Draws Candidates Galore
By Anna M. Tinsley and Ginger D. Richardson
November 15, 2001

A new congressional seat drawn for North Texas generates both some expected and some surprising interest from area politicians. Within hours, the list had begun.

Once word spread Wednesday that North Texas would have a new congressional district, potential contenders began surfacing.

The expected names - state Rep. Kenny Marchant, R-Coppell; state Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano; Dallas County Judge Lee Jackson; state Rep. Will Hartnett, R-Dallas; and state Rep. Kenn George, R-Dallas - were joined by one unexpected: U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Dallas.

"There's going to be a pitched battle in the primaries and in November for this seat," said Bill Miller, an Austin-based political analyst who represents Republicans and Democrats. "Names are just now being mentioned and more will float out there.

"An open seat like this is precious real estate," he said. "They don't come open often. You can bet there's going to be a big fight for it."

Political analysts say Sessions was a surprising addition to the list because he already holds a congressional seat.

But his district was targeted by Democrats during the past election as one that could have tipped the balance of power in the House.

Even though he won, Wednesday's newly created district in northwest Dallas County is an attractive Republican oasis - 66 percent Republican compared with his current district's 60.8 percent GOP population.

No one denies that Sessions would be a formidable candidate, but some say it doesn't make sense for the three-term incumbent to switch districts.

"I just can't imagine that," said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. "You always figure that your incumbent entrenches themselves further in their district each election."

Marchant, who some operatives predict could be the front-runner, said he is interested in running for the seat but hasn't made a final decision.

A state representative since 1987, he said he has represented nearly 70 percent of the district over the years.

He has been praised for his work on the House Financial Institutions Committee and as chairman of the House Republican Caucus.

For years, he has been named as a top contender for future congressional seats.

"My experience," he said, "makes me uniquely qualified to run at this time. I'm exploring it very seriously."

The district has a population of about 651,000. It is more than half Anglo, nearly 10 percent African-American and more than 25 percent Hispanic, according to the new plan.

It includes all or parts of Coppell, Carrollton, Farmers Branch, Irving, Richardson and Dallas.

No matter who represents the district, it will be another needed voice in Congress for North Texas, Jackson said.

"We have had five congressional leaders who identify with the community and have taken up issues for our community," Jackson said.

Staff writer Eva-Marie Ayala contributed to this report. Anna M. Tinsley, (817) 390-7610 atinsley@star-telegram.com. Ginger D. Richardson, (817) 390-7616 grichardson@star-telegram.com.

Washington Times
Redistricting Dampens GOP Hopes in Texas
By Stephen Dinan
November 15, 2001

A panel of federal judges has issued a new map for Texas congressional districts that protects incumbents and dampens Republican prospects for making big gains in the state.

Republican leaders had previously predicted their party would make a net gain of anywhere from five to eight House seats in Texas after districts were redrawn to reflect the 2000 census.

The three-judge panel protected all incumbents by not pairing any of them. The state has added two new House seats by population growth, and the court's map for those new districts favors Republicans, but even that won't overcome Democrats' current 17-13 advantage in the Texas congressional delegation.

"This fair map is good for Texas voters, a major victory for Democrats, and a resounding defeat for Republican efforts to use redistricting to protect their slim congressional majority," Rep. Martin Frost, Texas Democrat and head of his party's task force on redistricting.

"The new districts will likely elect 17 Democrats, preserve our majority in the Texas delegation ˇ and leave us in a great position to win back the House of Representatives in 2002," Mr. Frost said.

Republican congressional leaders Dick Armey and Tom DeLay, both from Texas, had predicted a gain of up to eight House seats for Republicans.

But Carl Forti, a spokesman at the National Republican Congressional Committee, said they have always assumed picking up two seats in Texas as part of the party's national plan to gain eight to 10 seats through redistricting ˇ and the judges' plan delivered on that.

"Republicans get the two new open seats without spending a dime, and it puts three incumbent Democrats on the ropes," Mr. Forti said, pointing to Reps. Chet Edwards, Ralph M. Hall and Charles W. Stenholm as Democrats who are now in tougher districts. "If we have to run competitive elections, we're more than happy to do it, because Texas is a Republican state."

Republicans hold a six-seat majority in the House and had planned on redistricting to add a buffer of eight to 10 more seats to that going into the 2002 elections.

The Republican strategy has been to hope for big gains in states such as Florida, Michigan and Pennsylvania ˇ states where redistricting is still up in the air, with Michigan's plan being challenged in the courts.

But Jenny Backus, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said no matter what happens in those states, now that the Texas map is done, there's no way to draw a national map that gives Republicans the kind of gains they had been predicting.

The job of drawing Texas' district lines fell to a special panel of federal judges ˇ two district judges and one circuit judge ˇ after the legislature couldn't agree on a plan.

In the opinion issued with the decision, the court argued that not pairing incumbents protects the state's interest in keeping senior legislative positions held by members of the state.

"Political gerrymandering, a purely partisan exercise, is inappropriate for a federal court drawing a congressional redistricting map," the opinion said.

Texas' two new districts were drawn centered on Dallas County and Harris County ˇ which contain the cities of Dallas and Houston, respectively.

The court rejected appeals by several groups to create another majority-Hispanic district, saying that if the numbers had worked out so that such a district was produced that would have been fine, but it was not going to go out of its way to create one.

Further challenges are possible, but Republicans and Democrats both said it is unlikely a court would overturn the plan between now and November 2002.

Houston Chronicle
New U.S. House Map Saves All Seats; 2 added districts tilt toward GOP
By R.G. Ratcliffe
November 15, 2001

A three-judge federal court panel Wednesday ordered a Texas congressional redistricting map for the 2002 elections that protects all the state's incumbents but gives Republicans the state's two new districts.

While the ruling can be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, Democratic and Republican lawyers said they expect the map to be used for next year's elections.

After next year's voting the Democrats likely will hold a 17-15 advantage in Texas' delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives. Democrats hold a 17-13 majority in the current delegation. The state gained two seats from the national reapportionment that followed the 2000 Census.

One of the new GOP districts, District 31, will stretch from northwestern Harris County across Waller, Austin, Washington, Brazos, Burleson, Lee and Bastrop counties into Williamson County north of Austin. The other new district, 32, is entirely within northwestern Dallas County.

Despite the judges' tilt toward incumbent protection, the 11th District of U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, was made more competitive. Based on voting patterns in the newly drawn 11th, Edwards is the Democratic incumbent Republicans would have the best chance of knocking off. That would leave the delegation with a 16-16 split.

The plan created no new Hispanic or black districts.

The order was signed by all three judges hearing the case -- Republican Patrick Higginbotham of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and Democrats John T. Ward and John Hannah Jr., both U.S. district judges from Tyler.

The case ended up in the federal courts when the Legislature failed to pass a congressional redistricting map, Gov. Rick Perry refused to call a special session for that purpose and state courts did not approve a plan.

The court order on congressional redistricting represents a major victory for Texas Democrats and House Speaker Pete Laney, D-Hale Center, who had fought for what they called a "least change" redistricting map. That meant keeping the districts of the state's 30 incumbents as intact as possible while fitting in the two new districts.

The plan is a defeat for the Republicans, U.S. House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, and state Attorney General John Cornyn. They wanted a major redrawing of the state's congressional districts to give the GOP a substantial majority in Texas' congressional delegation.

Under the map DeLay proposed to the court, at least 20 seats would have gone Republican. Cornyn's map would have guaranteed 19 Republican seats.

DeLay had been fighting for Republican gains in Texas to make up for expected Democratic gains in California redistricting. But just as Texas has now fizzled for the Republicans, California is a likely flop for Democrats.

"It continues a general direction of the overall cycle -- not much (partisan) change," said Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan Washington political analyst.

Rothenberg said Republicans will be "disappointed" in gaining only two seats in Texas from redistricting.

But he said there is still potential over the decade for the GOP to pick up Edwards' seat, as well as those now held by Democratic Reps. Charles Stenholm of Abilene and Ralph Hall of Rockwall.

Texas GOP Chairwoman Susan Weddington said the court ruling was a "small step" toward undoing what she called Democratic partisan gerrymandering of the 1991 redistricting.

"While we are disappointed that more was not done to reflect both Republican and minority growth in Texas over the past decade, the Republican Party is confident that the court's ruling will result in new congressional districts that are at least more fair than existing districts," she said.

U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas, chairman of the National Democratic Congressional Redistricting Project, hailed the ruling as "a major victory for Democrats and a resounding defeat for Republican efforts to use redistricting to protect their slim congressional majority."

DeLay said the plan is unfair to Republicans and minorities. He said the 2003 state Legislature should redraw the map.

"The essence of the map drawn by the federal court is incumbent protection at the expense of our growing minority population," DeLay said.

The only defeat the court handed the Democrats involved the West Texas 23rd District of U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio.

There had been an attempt to move Bonilla into an Anglo Republican district in Central Texas and make his current district Hispanic and Democratic. But the court map protects his district, which runs from San Antonio to Laredo and west to El Paso.

The ruling also was a defeat to those Hispanics and blacks who wanted to create new minority districts in Texas.

Nina Perales, an attorney for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said she was amazed the court did not create a new Hispanic district when Hispanics accounted for 60 percent of Texas' population growth in the past decade.

"We are disappointed because there was a strong consensus in the Latino community in Texas ... that it would be appropriate to draw the additional district," Perales said.

Blacks had wanted the 25th District of U.S. Rep. Ken Bentsen,D-Houston, redrawn as a black "opportunity district," meaning a black candidate might be able to win it when Bentsen leaves office. He is planning to run for the U.S. Senate.

In some earlier maps, Bentsen was put in the 18th District held by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, in a configuration that would have favored her re-election. Bentsen is not in Jackson Lee's district in the court map, and her district was strengthened as a black district.

The court said the black and Hispanic populations are not substantial enough to require the creation of new black or Hispanic opportunity districts by law under the federal Voting Rights Act.

The court said the Legislature could have created such districts but it was not going to because it would have a partisan effect.

Roll Call
New Texas Map Protects Members; Court Creates Two New Republican Seats
By John Mercurio
November 15, 2001

Seeking middle ground in a redistricting battle that has far-reaching implications in the fight for control of the House, a federal court yesterday released a new Texas map that protects most incumbents and creates two open-seat GOP districts.

House Republicans now are likely to gain at least two seats in Texas, but GOP aides said the map could also threaten Democratic Reps. Chet Edwards, Charlie Stenholm and Ralph Hall. "Hall and Edwards have gotten their last free ride," said Carl Forti, a National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman. "They're in trouble."

Citing House Majority Whip Tom DeLay's (R-Texas) claim that any "fair" Texas map should produce a gain of six to eight Republican seats, House Democrats said the three-judge panel's unanimous decision dealt a blow to GOP hopes of holding the majority.

"Republicans made the mistake of believing their own spin about Texas politics," said Democratic Caucus Chairman Martin Frost, whose Fort Worth-area district was made slightly more Hispanic and Democratic. "The truth is, Texas is a strong two-party state, and this map reflects that reality."

The judges for the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (one Republican and two Democrats) did not create a majority-Hispanic district, which had been widely expected because of the community's 53 percent growth in Texas during the 1990s. Hispanics accounted for 32 percent of Texans in the 2000 census, but they may continue to hold just six of the state's 32 House seats (19 percent) in the next Congress under the court's map. An attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund said the group may appeal the map to the U.S. Supreme Court.

African-American groups, however, praised the new plan, noting that it creates a Houston-based district that a black Democrat could win. The 25th district, in which black voters would comprise 22 percent of the population, is currently held by Rep. Ken Bentsen (D), who announced Tuesday that he would run for Senate next year, regardless of the court ruling. But unlike a map released by a lower court, the new proposal would not eliminate Bentsen's seat and force him to challenge Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) if he wanted to stay in the House.

Curiously, in their 16-page opinion, the judges pointed out that their map was motivated in part by the large number of "unique, major" leadership positions held by the delegation.

"Doubtlessly, some may see such weighting as an incumbency factor since Congressional leadership so directly correlates with seniority," they wrote. "Nonetheless Í this correlation is no longer so complete. It does not here offer purchase to one political party over another. And it reflects a traditional state interest in the power of its Congressional delegation distinct from partisan affiliation."

The delegation's House leaders are Frost, DeLay, Edwards, a Chief Deputy Minority Whip; Stenholm, ranking member of the Agriculture Committee; Majority Leader Dick Armey (R), and Agriculture Chairman Larry Combest (R).

"I've never seen this done before," Frost said, laughing. "They're federal judges, but they're from Texas. They're Texans."

Both parties responded with tentative approval of the court's decision, which was prompted by the divided state Legislature's failure to approve a map this summer. "It's reasonable and fair," said Texas Rep. Max Sandlin (D). "I regret losing those few voters who are no longer in my district, but I'm pleased with the overall outcome."

The new map is likely to remain intact, at least for 2002. The court's redistricting plan can be appealed directly to the U.S. Supreme Court, but lawyers from both parties said they doubt the High Court would halt next year's elections while the case was on appeal.

"Under the map outlined by the court, every Democratic incumbent in Texas will be strongly favored to win re-election, which means we will be returning a Democratic majority in the Texas delegation to Congress," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (N.Y.) in a statement.

Democrats currently hold a 17-13 edge in the Texas delegation. Even some Republicans conceded that the map did not go far enough for them to accomplish their national goals. "The panel left Hispanics, blacks and Republicans still underrepresented," said Jim Ellis, executive director of DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority PAC (ARMPAC).

"It does fall short,"he said. "There's no question about that."

Members who appear to benefit most from the plan, even if only marginally, are Reps. DeLay, Lloyd Doggett (D), Kay Granger (R), Pete Sessions (R) and Mac Thornberry (R), based on party performance in recent statewide races. Members whose districts were made slightly more competitive in the 2000 contests include Reps. Edwards, Combest and Joe Barton (R).

Based on the new map, however, the NRCC is already planning to target Hall, Edwards and Stenholm, all of whom were re-elected by double-digit margins last year.

"They've been saying that for 23 years, and nothing's changed. Any district that they draw for us we're going to run in and we're going to win in," said Stenholm, noting that his new district includes 89 percent of the current 17th. "I'm very pleased."

Republicans insist Stenholm can finally be ousted under the new map, and they note that Edwards gained part-of GOP-leaning Williamson county, while Hall picked up Republican voters in Smith and Greg counties and lost a chunk of his base in Hunt and Denton counties.

"Ralph Hall has to make a decision," said a House GOP leadership aide. "Maybe he'll take a position in the Bush administration and end his political career in peace. If not, he's going to have the race of his life in 2002. Everyone likes Ralph Hall, he's every Republican's favorite Democrat. But the bottom line is that he votes for [Minority Leader] Richard Gephardt."

The two open seats that Texas gained in reapportionment, the 31st and 32nd districts, are heavily Republican, according to party performance in statewide races last year. On average, Republicans took 70 percent of the new 31st district in 2000 statewide races and 66 percent of the 32nd, according to the Texas Legislative Council.

The court put one open district, the 32nd, in the northwest section of Dallas County. The 31st connects a central Texas area, including parts of Williamson County and Austin-based Travis County, to a sliver of Houston-based Harris County.

Although both parties expressed support, Hispanic groups said the ruling was the latest setback for their efforts to increase minority representation in Congress. MALDEF is already challenging the California redistricting plan in court as a violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Representing several Latino groups, MALDEF wanted one of those new Texas districts to be drawn in south Texas, where Hispanics would have an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.

The court said that drawing a Hispanic district was a "political" act that would be more appropriate for the state Legislature to handle. Using a separate set of legal criteria, however, the judges said they were unable to achieve that goal.

Even though he had backed efforts to create a Hispanic district, Frost said he did not plan to challenge the court's refusal to do so. "They decided there wasn't a compact Hispanic community that could create a new majority district, and it's hard to argue with the court on that," he said. "I don't know that there's much that can be done."

One day before the court released its redistricting decision, Bentsen said he'd run to succeed retiring Sen. Phil Gramm (R) next year, creating a good opportunity for blacks to enhance their ranks on Capitol Hill.

Bentsen, who will formally announce his campaign Nov. 26 in Texas, said new polling he recently commissioned demonstrates that he would be the strongest Democratic nominee. "I think the primary and general are wide open, and I have a very good opportunity to win them both," said Bentsen, 42, the nephew of ex-Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D), in an interview Tuesday.

At least three other Democrats - Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk, teacher Victor Morales and attorney Ed Cunningham - are running. Dan Morales, a former state attorney general, will decide later this month whether to join the contest.

New York Times
Court Thwarts G.O.P. Hopes for Big Gains in Texas Seats
By Jim Yardley
November 15, 2001

A panel of three federal judges issued a new political map for Texas Congressional districts today, and Democrats say it will help their efforts in 2002 to regain control of the United States House of Representatives.

Nationally, Democrats and Republicans are jockeying for advantage in redistricting fights in many states, but the battle in Texas has drawn particular interest. The House majority whip, Representative Tom DeLay, played an active role in the process and had predicted that new boundaries would bring Republicans six to eight more seats in the state and thereby help maintain the party's slender majority in the House.

But the ruling today by the panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit fell short of Mr. DeLay's prediction. The state's Congressional delegation grew to 32 seats from 30, and Republicans are expected to win the two new seats. Yet analysts in both parties agree that the plan maintains the status quo in the other 30 seats, which favor Democrats 17 to 13.

Representative Martin Frost of Texas, who is leading national redistricting efforts on behalf of House Democrats, said the ruling was a blow to the Republican strategy of picking up new House seats through more favorable political boundaries.

"It means the Republicans probably will not be able to achieve their goal of attaining 8 to 10 seats nationally," Mr. Frost said, predicting that redistricting nationwide would be a "wash" between the two parties.

Some Republicans contended that the party would still meet their goal of gaining up to 10 seats nationally through redistricting gains in other states. Representative Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, who is chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said he was satisfied with the results in Texas, though he conceded that the ruling could have been more favorable to Republicans.

"It's a win, period," Mr. Davis said of the two-seat pickup. "But maybe it's not as clean a win, in a perfect world, that you would want. It meets our expectations. It does not exceed our expectations."

Every decade, after new census figures are released, state legislatures are charged with redrawing political boundaries. But in its session last year, the Texas Legislature failed to produce a redistricting plan, and ultimately the issue wound up in the federal courts.

The ruling could be appealed to the United States Supreme Court, but analysts in both parties agreed that the map would at least serve for the 2002 elections. One group considering an appeal is the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The new map failed to create a new majority-Hispanic district, even though Hispanics are the state's fastest-growing ethnic group and make up one-third of the population.

"We are very disappointed with the ruling," said David Almager, the group's redistricting coordinator for Texas. "The panel failed to recognize the enormous growth of the Latino community over the last decade."

Mr. Almager said there were currently seven Congressional districts in Texas with a Hispanic majority.

The high stakes in Texas between the two parties was evident by the role played by Mr. DeLay, who represents a suburban Houston district. He testified at redistricting hearings in the Legislature and publicly politicked for lines more favorable to Republicans. He noted that Republicans dominated statewide elections in Texas, holding every office, and that Congressional boundaries should be redrawn to favor Republicans.

In a statement released by his office early this evening, Mr. DeLay described the new map as "incumbent protection" that failed by not creating any new minority districts.

"The Republican party, which controls the overwhelming majority of statewide offices, also remains underrepresented," he said, adding that he hoped the Legislature would address the issue again when it meets in 2003.

Steve Schmidt, communications director for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Republicans could pick up more than two seats under the new Texas map. He said the incumbent Democrats Ralph Hall, Chet Edwards and Charles Stenholm were now more vulnerable to Republican challenges after slight changes in their districts.

Los Angeles Times
Court Creates Congressional Districts
By Connie Mabin
November 14, 2001

A federal court on Wednesday ordered a new congressional map, creating two new districts favorable to Republican candidates.

The panel of three federal judges drew one of the new districts in the northwest section of Dallas County. The other is a winding district in central Texas that stretches near Houston.

Democratic leaders believe they can still maintain their congressional majority, although Republicans will likely win the two new districts.

"Democrats have repeatedly beaten Republicans in competitive congressional districts in Texas and we will continue to win those districts under this map," said U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas, chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Project.

Republican leaders predicted victory for the GOP in the next election.

"If we have to run competitive races we're more than willing to do it in Texas because Texas is a Republican state," said Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Texas previously had 30 districts, held by 17 Democrats and 13 Republicans. It received an additional two districts because the 2000 census showed the state population grew by 3.9 million.

Minority advocates had argued for districts where black and Hispanic votes would not be diluted or canceled out by white votes. Of Texas' 20.9 million people, 6.7 million are Hispanic and 2.4 million are black, according to the census.

Morris Overstreet, president of the Coalition of Black Democrats, said he was satisfied with the creation of a district near Houston that a black candidate could win.

"I'm convinced that they have created an opportunity district for an African-American," Overstreet said.

Some Hispanics were not so happy.

"We are disappointed," said Nina Perales, an attorney with the nonprofit Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund. The group is considering an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The three-judge panel drafted the boundaries because the Texas Legislature has failed to do so.

Dallas Morning News
Crucial Redistricting Battle Is On; Democrats rip House Map; Stet urges federal panel to adopt proposal
By Sam Attlesey
November 14, 2001

A Republican plan reshaping the state's 150 House districts discriminates against blacks and Hispanics, lawyers for Democrats and civil rights groups argued Tuesday.

In opening statements before a three-judge federal court panel, the lawyers said the House map drawn by the GOP-dominated Legislative Redistricting Board should be discarded.

"The LRB plan is unconstitutional. It retrogresses. It packs. It dilutes" minority voting rights, said Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston.

But lawyers for the state maintain that the plan, drawn by three of the five state officials on the board, is fair and would enhance the chance for more minorities being elected to the House.

"It represents the state's policy choices," said Andy Taylor, who is representing the state and arguing for the federal judges to adopt the redistricting board plan.

The board assumed the task of redrawing House and Senate districts after lawmakers failed to complete those chores during the regular legislative session this year.

Under the board's plan, analysts said Republicans could hold as many as 90 of the 150 House seats. That could jeopardize the re-election hopes of House Speaker Pete Laney, D-Hale Center, the highest-ranking Democrat in the state.

Currently, Democrats hold 78 seats and Republicans have 72.

The redistricting board's plan was clearly the focus of the opening day of the trial Tuesday, but the judges have said that the GOP-drawn plan would be competing for the judges' approval in the same way as more than a dozen other redistricting proposals.

The judges maintain that the redistricting board's plan should not be given more weight than other plans because it has not been approved by the Department of Justice, where officials are determining whether the proposal violates the Voting Rights Act.

Lawyers for the state said that the federal panel should give more weight to the redistricting board's plan because it was drawn by the board after numerous public hearings.

"Our process was open, deliberative and reactive to the public testimony we received," Mr. Taylor said. He said the board's plan would increase the opportunity for more minorities to be elected.

But Rick Gray, a lawyer for Mr. Laney, disagreed.

"In every facet you can measure, the LRB map reduces minority voting strength," Mr. Gray said.

The federal court panel comprises two judges appointed by Democrats and one judge appointed by a Republican. The case they are overseeing combines several lawsuits filed around the state challenging new legislative boundaries.

The same panel has also conducted trials on the shape of the state's 31 senatorial districts and 32 congressional districts.

U.S. Circuit Court Judge Patrick Higginbotham said at the beginning of Tuesday's trial that he expects the panel to issue its rulings on the congressional and state senate boundaries before Thanksgiving.

San Antonio Express-News
Lacking a Ruling From Feds, Remap Judges Restart Process
By Bob Richter
November 9, 2001

The already befuddling legislative redistricting issue became even murkier Thursday.

This much is known:

Three federal judges will start from square one on Tuesday ˇ rather than use as a model the controversial map adopted July 24 by the Legislative Redistricting Board ˇ to reapportion the 150-seat Texas House, according to an order issued Thursday.

The LRB map, drawn by three Republican state officials, likely would result in the election next year of 90 or more Republicans to the Texas House, the last bastion of Democratic Party power in Texas.

However, the map has not been "precleared" by the U.S. Justice Department, which screens states' plans for constitutional and Voting Rights Act shortcomings.

"The Department of Justice has informed this court that it cannot yet provide us with a date by which it will complete its preclearance review," federal District Judge T. John Ward wrote in a notice to the parties in the case Thursday.

"Absent preclearance, the (LRB) plan for the House of Representatives is only a competing plan."

That would put the LRB plan on a level playing field with a host of other plans offered by plaintiffs and interveners.

The development continues a seven-month process of taking two steps back for every redistricting step forward.

First, the Legislature adjourned without completing state House and Senate maps, leaving that task to the LRB, a five-member constitutional body composed of the speaker of the House, lieutenant governor, land commissioner, comptroller and attorney general.

Then, Gov. Rick Perry declined to recall lawmakers for a summer session to redraw State Board of Education and U.S. House districts, leaving that chore to, first, the state and now the federal courts.

Reaction on Thursday mirrored the legal positions.

"We're back to a beauty contest, back to a malapportionment case," said Nina Perales of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The San Antonio-based civil rights organization represents Simon Balderas, lead plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, who is seeking additional Hispanic-opportunity seats in the U.S. House and state House and Senate.

The "beauty contest" refers to the federal trial on U.S. House redistricting. No map was drawn by any elected body, meaning the judges heard evidence and viewed maps submitted by more than a dozen parties.

The panel ˇ Ward and federal District Judge John Hannah, both Tyler Democrats, and U.S. Circuit Judge Patrick Higginbotham, a Dallas Republican ˇ are in the process now of drawing a new 32-seat U.S. House map.

E-mail Bob Richter at brichter@express-news.net.

Dallas Morning News
Court Finds Politics Drove Texas Senate Redistricting
November 7, 2001

A federal trial on Texas Senate redistricting has ended, confirming Democrats' claims that partisan politics drove the drawing of state House and Senate maps by the Legislative Redistricting Board.

However, one judge on the three-judge panel considering the case repeatedly has said the court would not change the Senate map simply because politics was involved in its drawing.

During the brief trial that ended Tuesday, lawyers for Attorney General John Cornyn, who chaired the Republican-controlled Legislative Redistricting Board, acknowledged some Senate districts were drawn to gain political advantage.

"But," said Robert Heath of the attorney's general's office, "there's no good argument that anything invidious took place."

Heath's co-counsel, Andy Taylor, admitted "politics drove in part" the reconfiguration in southeast Texas of Senate District 17, which took some 25,000 black voters and a Democratic majority from the newly configured abutting Senate District 4.

Democrats immediately jumped on the admissions.

"John Cornyn has been representing the Republican Party throughout the redistricting process not the people of Texas," said state Democratic Party Chairwoman Molly Beth Malcolm.

The federal panel can change the Senate map if it violates the federal Voting Rights Act or the U.S. Constitution.

The court will begin hearing the case against the redistricting board's Texas House map on Nov. 13.

Houston Chronicle
Cornyn Wanted GOP District Switch; Lawyer admits remapping by attorney general was politically motivated
By R.G. Ratcliffe
November 6, 2001

Attorney General John Cornyn redrew a Beaumont-area state Senate district in July solely to change it from Democrat to Republican, Cornyn's lawyer acknowledged as a federal redistricting trial began Monday.

Cornyn, as chairman of the Legislative Redistricting Board, denied at the time that partisan politics played a role in his redrawing of state Senate and state House maps. He said his goal was not to draw partisan districts but to create competitive districts.

"Our overriding responsibility was not to protect hurt feelings. It was not to protect incumbents. It is to protect the people of the state of Texas to make sure they can elect people of their choice," Cornyn said after his plan was approved in July.

"Texas has changed, and we've got to look to new leadership and give the voters some competitive elections," Cornyn said.

But Cornyn's lawyer, Andy Taylor, told a three-judge federal panel Monday that the 4th District now held by Sen. David Bernsen, D-Beaumont, was redrawn solely so it would "flip" to the Republican Party.

Taylor said the LRB "can appropriately consider political impact when it creates a district ... as long as there is nothing racially motivated in doing that."

Black voters in Jefferson and Orange counties were outraged by Cornyn's actions last summer. Cornyn cut short a town hall meeting in Orange when confronted by an angry crowd of black voters.

Taylor's admission came as the federal court shifted its attention from congressional redistricting to state Senate redistricting. A third trial on state House redistricting will follow the Senate trial. Testimony in the congressional case ended last week, but the court has not ruled.

Democratic and minority interests claim in federal court that the Senate map, as drawn by the Legislative Redistricting Board, violates the federal Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.

Political districts are redrawn every 10 years after the national census.

The job of drawing state Senate districts fell to the LRB, which comprises Cornyn and four other top state officials, when the Legislature failed to take action.

Cornyn's map was approved in July with the support of two other Republican LRB members, Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander and Land Commissioner David Dewhurst. LRB members opposing the plan were Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff and Democratic House Speaker Pete Laney.

The plan could give the GOP as many as 21 seats in the 31-member chamber. Republicans held a 16-15 edge in this year's legislative session.

The political coup in Southeast Texas was accomplished by taking the Republican District 17 and redrawing it into what Taylor described as a fishhook shape that curves down from Houston through Fort Bend County to the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston County and then follows the coast to the Louisiana state line.

Taylor described this as an attempt to make District 17 encompass a "community of interest" along the Texas coastline. He said coastal communities have similar political needs.

The redrawing took 25,000 blacks in Jefferson County out of the Democratic 4th District and put them into the 17th -- which would remain Republican under the plan even with the addition of the blacks, who historically vote Democratic.

But without the black voters, and with the addition of Republicans from northeast Harris and Montgomery counties, the 4th District under Cornyn's plan likely would not elect a Democrat.

Bernsen has announced he is running for state land commissioner. Sen. J.E. "Buster" Brown, R-Lake Jackson, the incumbent in the 17th District, is not seeking re-election.

Ed Cloutman, a lawyer representing the Democrats, told the court he will show the district was redrawn to illegally "fracture" black voting precincts, not to tie together a coastal "community of interest."

Fort Worth Star Telegram
Ratliff Questions Panel's Action
By John Moritz
November 6, 2001

Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff testified that he was troubled by the last-minute tactics of the Legislative Redistricting Board. AUSTIN - Acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff testified Monday that he was "seriously concerned" that the special state panel that redrew the district boundaries for the state Senate pushed through several last-minute changes with no public input.

Ratliff, a Republican, was in court for the opening day of the Texas Senate redistricting trial before the same panel of federal judges that on Friday concluded a two-week trial on congressional redistricting.

Ratliff also served on the five-member Legislative Redistricting Board, which last summer redrew the political maps for the state House and Senate after the Legislature had adjourned without tackling the task. Also on the panel were Land Commissioner David Dewhurst, Comptroller Carole Keeton Rylander and Attorney General John Cornyn - all Republicans - and Democratic House Speaker Pete Laney.

Ratliff found himself voting with Laney on the losing side of several 3-2 decisions as the two maps took their final shapes.

The maps angered many lawmakers from both parties who said they would have to seek re-election in unfamiliar territory because communities that had been contained in single districts for decades had been separated.

In Tarrant County, state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, has moved so she can run in District 12, where many of her current constituents in District 9 were placed. Arlington Republican Chris Harris of District 10 reacted likewise and will run in the newly drawn District 9, and Fort Worth Democrat Mike Moncrief has not ruled out switching from District 12 to 10.

Under questioning from Edward Cloutman, a lawyer for Democratic plaintiffs in the court battle, Ratliff said he voiced objections "as strenuously as I could" because the panel was adding amendments that affected numerous Senate districts that had been proposed in the final minutes of its last public meeting. Early on, the members agreed to some operating guidelines stating that the plans would be subject to public scrutiny before the panel acted.

"The reason we did that was so that the public would have knowledge as to what was before the group," Ratliff said.

The maps are being challenged on several grounds, including that they violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

Presiding Judge Patrick Higginbotham warned Cloutman that whether the redistricting board followed its informal guidelines would likely have little bearing on the merits of the case.

"I don't want to spend all week on a point that's not going anywhere," Higginbotham said.

Testimony is expected to conclude Friday and the judges will take up the Texas House plan next week.

John Moritz, (512) 476-4294 jmoritz@star-telegram.com.

Dallas Morning News
Texas Senate Districts Under Microscope in Trial
By Kelley Shannon
November 5, 2001

A Republican-leaning state Senate redistricting plan came under fire in federal court Monday as a legal challenge of new Senate districts began.

Three federal judges ˇ the same ones who have yet to rule in a congressional redistricting trial that finished last week ˇ listened to opening statements and began to hear from witnesses in the Senate case.

Democratic and minority interests claim the Senate map, enacted by the Legislative Redistricting Board led by Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, violates the federal Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund contends that because of Latino population growth a new Hispanic majority district should have been created in South Texas and in Dallas.

Under the new map, minorities are "packed" in some South Texas districts, a violation of federal law, said MALDEF attorney Nina Perales.

Newly drawn Senate districts in the Rio Grande Valley, southeast Texas and Dallas-Fort-Worth are expected to come under heavy scrutiny.

Howard County in West Texas, where Big Spring is located, is fighting to be reunited with Lubbock County in one district, instead of being connected to Amarillo farther north.

District 17 in southeast Texas divides a dozen cities and is "tainted with arbitrariness and discrimination," said Democratic plaintiffs' attorney David Richards.

"It's putting minority voters in an overpopulated district and fragmenting the community," Richards added.

Andy Taylor, defending the state's map, said that in District 17 ˇ which looks like a "fish hook" and is located along the Texas coast ˇ the combined number of blacks and Hispanics went up, not down.

Its redrawing may have been motivated by politics, which is permissible, but its new shape is not a "racial issue," Taylor said.

The state has a lawful plan that should be allowed to remain in place unless the court finds it violates the Voting Rights Act or U.S. Constitution, Taylor said.

The Legislative Redistricting Board approved a Senate plan in July that could give the GOP from 19 to 21 seats in the 31-member chamber.

Republicans held a 16-15 edge in this year's legislative session. The death this summer of Republican Sen. Tom Haywood of Wichita Falls brings the balance to 15-15. A special election to fill the seat is Tuesday.

New district boundaries are drawn every 10 years based on updated census figures. State lawmakers failed to pass a plan this year so the redistricting board, made up of five leading state officials, got the job.

The board worked to keep minority communities together and to prevent "retrogression" of minority representation, as is required by federal law, Taylor said.

Taylor warned that the court may hear "griping" about how the Legislative Redistricting Board voted on the Senate plan with alleged last-minute changes.

However, he said, the process was open and witnessed by the public.

Houston Chronicle
RedistrictingÝs Gray Area Debated; Republicans, Democrats differ over drawing lines, designation
By R.G. Ratcliffe
November 4, 2001

Just about everyone in the federal congressional redistricting trial wants to give another black politician an opportunity to serve the Houston area in Congress.

What the Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on is how to draw the lines for that new district. In fact, they cannot even agree on a district designation, with it being called District 25 in some maps and District 9 in others.

And there is disagreement over whether some proposed black districts actually could elect a black representative.

For instance, Republican Attorney General John Cornyn has proposed a district that counts among its voting age population black inmates in three state prisons, who are not allowed to vote.

Cornyn's lawyer, Andy Taylor, said the effect of the inmates in the district is "zilch." But Morris Overstreet, a lawyer for the Coalition of Black Democrats, said that when those inmates are backed out of Cornyn's plan, a Hispanic or an Anglo Democrat is as likely to win the district as a black.

For the past two weeks, a three-judge federal panel has been listening to lawyers for partisan and minority interest groups argue over which of 140 congressional redistricting plans would be the best for Texas to use through the next decade.

The outcome will determine whether Democrats or Republicans hold a majority in the state's congressional delegation.

Democrats have a 17-13 majority now. Texas is gaining two seats because of increased population counted in last year's census. Various plans range from giving the Republicans a 20-12 majority to giving the Democrats a 17-15 advantage.

The task of drawing the lines fell to the federal court because the Legislature and the state courts failed to come up with a plan before an Oct. 15 deadline that the federal court had mandated.

While partisan considerations play a major role in redistricting, the federal judges also are guided by the Voting Rights Act. That law says redistricting cannot be used to diminish the ability of minority voters to elect candidates of their choice.

For the Houston area, the battle is over how to preserve the 18th Congressional District served by U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston, who is black, while possibly creating a second black district.

Jackson Lee's district needs to acquire about 45,000 new residents to hit the ideal district size based on last year's census. She testified that she is concerned that some of the redistricting plans would cut the district off from black growth areas, possibly reducing its black constituency in the future.

She said she was particularly troubled by some plans that remove downtown business areas from the district while leaving poor neighborhoods. She said that would harm her ability to serve as a bridge between wealth and the problems of the poor.

"The downtown business community represents a core aspect (of the district), but it also balances the representative's ability to deal with the other issue," Jackson Lee testified.

U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, D-Dallas, voiced similar concerns about Republican plans for her district.

Most of the focus on developing a second black district in Houston has been on the 25th District now held by white Democrat Ken Bentsen.

Democratic plans for the district would make it likely that Bentsen could be re-elected as an incumbent while creating the opportunity for a black politician to replace him when he leaves office.

Bentsen is expected to run for U.S. Senate this year.

Republican plans for the district would increase the odds of a black winning but diminish Bentsen's ability to win re-election. Some maps put Bentsen's home in Jackson Lee's district.

Representatives are not required to live in their districts, but removing home territory from a district weakens a politician's base of support. Cornyn's lawyer, Taylor, said he believes the court is under no legal obligation to create a second black district. But he said most parties to the lawsuit believe it would be fair to give blacks another representative in Congress to approximate their voting strength in Texas.

Blacks represent about 12 percent of the statewide voter turnout in most elections, he said.

None of the plans creates a district that is more than 50 percent black.

But historical voting patterns show that black representatives can be elected in districts that are about 40 percent black.

Some of the proposed black districts have black populations as low as 35 percent.

State Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, testified for a plan put forward by Texas congressional Democrats that would put the core of a new black district in Fort Bend County extending into Houston.

Coleman said the Fort Bend black community is made up of people whose parents and grandparents lived in the 18th District.

State Rep. Ron Wilson, D-Houston, testified for a black district put forward by the state's congressional Republicans. That district -- which would replace District 9 held by U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, D-Beaumont -- would extend from southeast Houston to Beaumont-Port Arthur.

Wilson said Democrats are more interested in protecting white incumbents than in creating a new black district."They could have done this 20 years ago," he said.

Only two of the plans before the court make no effort to create a black opportunity district. They were submitted by Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff and by Phil Sudan, an unsuccessful Republican candidate last year for the 25th District.

Sudan's plan would make the district Republican. He said that is a result of trying to reconfigure the congressional districts to get them completely within the boundaries of Harris County.

Sudan said there is a good argument for creating a second black district, but he said that should be done as a matter of policy by the Legislature, not a federal court. He said that once a district is created by a federal court, under the Voting Rights Act the legislature could never eliminate it.

Ratliff said he did not include a black district in his map because he does not believe one can really be created. He said that when voter turnout is studied in the black districts created in other maps, it shows whites will continue to win the districts.

Because of substantial Hispanic population growth in the state, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund is arguing for a new Hispanic district in south Texas, with Laredo as its anchor, and a Hispanic district in Dallas.

Hispanics represented 60 percent of the state's growth in the past decade, MALDEF lawyer Nina Perales told the court. "Hispanics are the engine that is driving the growth," she said.

Democrats argue there are not enough Hispanic citizens of voting age in Dallas to create a district there. Such a district also would harm the re-election chances of U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas.

Republicans claim the MALDEF plan would violate the Voting Rights Act because it would move U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, into a white-dominated district.

A separate Hispanic plaintiff group wants a new South Texas district to be based in McAllen instead of Laredo.

Dallas Morning News
Remap Case Goes to Judges; Future face of U.S. House could be decided by 3 jurists in Texas
By Sam Attlesey
November 3, 2001

The shape of Texas' congressional districts and perhaps determining which party controls the U.S. House for the next decade are now in the hands of three federal judges.

"We'll do our best to get something done as quickly as we can," U.S. Circuit Court Judge Patrick Higginbotham said as the two-week redistricting trial concluded Friday.

More than a dozen maps were submitted to the court by lawyers representing political parties, state officials, civil rights groups, and congressional incumbents.

The federal court panel can use one of those maps, or it can draw its own in shaping the state's 32 congressional districts.

"We'll do the best we can," Judge Higginbotham told the lawyers after final arguments.

In addition to Judge Higginbotham, who was appointed to the federal judiciary by a Republican, the panel includes U.S. District Judges T. John Ward and John Hannah, who are Democratic appointees.

The court assumed the task of adopting new congressional boundaries after lawmakers failed to do so during the regular legislative session this year.

Because of the close partisan split in Congress, some analysts believe how the 32 Texas districts are drawn could determine whether Democrats or Republicans have control of the U.S. House during the next 10 years.

Lawyers for Republicans maintained throughout the trial that the GOP is underrepresented in the state's congressional delegation.

Currently, Democrats hold 17 seats and Republicans have 13. Texas is gaining two new congressional districts because of population growth.

Republicans proposed maps that could jeopardize the re-election hopes of seven Democratic incumbents, including U.S. Rep. Martin Frost of Dallas.

Democrats submitted maps that would protect incumbents of both parties.

Robert Long, a lawyer for the Texas Democratic Party, urged the judges to draw congressional districts that would preserve the "Texas tradition of enhancing its power in Washington through seniority."

Lawyers for civil rights groups said blacks and Hispanics need to have more districts in which a minority could be elected.

In the current 30-member Texas delegation, there are six Hispanic and two black representatives. Hispanics make up 29 percent of the voting age population in the state, and blacks account for 11 percent of the voting age population.

Leon Carter, a lawyer representing acting Lt. Gov. Bill Ratliff, who proposed his own map, said he was somewhat concerned by the tone of the testimony during the trial.

"Instead of bringing this state together, we've been trying to divide this state on the basis of race and on the basis of politics," Mr. Carter said during closing arguments.

In addition to having to decide congressional redistricting, the same three judges will begin Monday hearing challenges to the new Texas Senate and House districts.

The Republican-dominated Legislative Redistricting Board redrew the 31 Senate districts and 150 House districts after state lawmakers failed to complete the chore.

The board's legislative plans would give Republicans strong majorities in the Senate and the House.

Democrats and some minority groups have challenged those plans.

Fort Worth Star Telegram
Redistricting Case Proceeds
By John Moritz
November 3, 2001

The presiding judge in the congressional redistricting trial says drawing the boundary lines will not be easy.

Three federal judges, one appointed by a Republican president and two by a Democrat, will tackle the divisive task of redrawing Texas' congressional district boundaries after a dozen lawyers with competing viewpoints concluded their arguments Friday.

Appeals Court Judge Patrick E. Higginbotham of Dallas, who presided over the tribunal during the two-week redistricting trial in Austin, did not say when the map of Texas' 32 congressional districts will be ready. He gave the lawyers until the end of Tuesday to submit any other documents that would support the arguments they made during the trial.

"We will do the best we can," said Higginbotham, who was appointed to the federal appeals court by then-President Ronald Reagan. The other two judges, T. John Ward and John Hannah Jr., both of Tyler, were appointed by former President Clinton. "We learned enough [during the trial] to know that it's not easy."

The task of drawing the new boundaries ended up in federal court after the Legislature adjourned in May without a redistricting plan for either Congress or the Legislature. A congressional map drawn last month by state District Judge Paul Davis of Austin was discarded by the Texas Supreme Court.

The trial to determine legislative districts begins Monday before the same three-judge panel.

The congressional redistricting trial was conducted round-robin style with each lawyer representing separate clients. At times, lawyers representing Democrats attempted to shoot holes at the arguments made by fellow Democrats, and Republicans did the same on their side.

Occasionally, a Democratic lawyer would seize on a point made by a Republican to advance his or her own case.

Generally, the Democratic lawyers urged the judges to use the existing congressional map as a baseline for the new plan, even though the new map will have 32 districts instead of today's 30. The new boundaries are required by law to reflect population shifts and demographic changes uncovered by the 2000 Census.

Republicans, on the other hand, urged the judges to scrap the existing map on grounds that it was a product of gerrymandering designed to protect the Democrats' slim majority in the congressional delegation even as Texas voters are leaning more and more to the GOP.

Lawyers representing Hispanic and African-American organizations urged the lawyers to develop a plan that would increase the number of minorities in the congressional delegation.

Nina Perales, representing the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said Hispanics were largely responsible for the state's surge in population during the 1990s. Under a plan she promoted, eight of the 32 districts would be considered winnable by a Hispanic candidate.

Morris Overstreet, representing the Coalition of African-American delegates, said a second seat in Harris County should be drawn to accommodate a black candidate. Currently two African-Americans from Texas serve in Congress.

John Moritz, (512) 476-4294 jmoritz@star-telegram.com.

San Antonio Express-News
House Remap Trial Nears End
By Bob Richter
November 2, 2001

Lawyers for the 10 plaintiffs and intervenors in the congressional redistricting trial will make final arguments today as the long-running political soap opera approaches its end.

The state rested its case Thursday with one final twist: Federal Circuit Court Judge Patrick Higginbotham, who is presiding over the three-judge panel hearing the case, asked the state to prepare a map overnight.

Higginbotham made the request after the state's attorney, Andy Taylor, led the state's star witness, John Alford of Rice University, through a primer on how the judges should draw a 32-seat Texas congressional map.

Essentially, Alford had advised the judges to start by drawing in nine existing minority-opportunity districts, and then determine whether and where to draw in new minority seats.

Then, he said, pick a spot on the Texas map and start drawing in districts that are as near as possible to the 651,619 required by dividing Texas' 20.8 million people into 32 congressional districts.

Taylor said he would have a map drawn by today.

Higginbotham, a Dallas Republican, asked only that the map be neutral politically because the Supreme Court has ruled that judges be nonpartisan in redistricting cases.

And, Higginbotham added, "We cannot use happiness as an outcome. A lot of people are going to be unhappy."

Immediately following closing arguments today, many of the same lawyers will meet for a pretrial conference with the same panel of jurists on the next phase of the redistricting conundrum ˇ challenges to the Texas Senate map that was drawn in July by the Legislative Redistricting Board.

That trial is scheduled to begin Monday, and one on the LRB's Texas House plan is scheduled to open the following Monday.

The latter might be the most difficult of the legislative maps. It lacks a required preclearance on Voting Rights Act issues from the Justice Department. The Senate LRB plan was precleared three weeks ago.

Dan Nelson, a spokesman for Justice's Voting Section, said Thursday there are no new developments on preclearance of the House plan.

Should there be none by Nov. 12, when the House trial opens, the federal panel will work from a blank slate, as it has with the congressional plan.

The courts were forced into the redistricting effort because the Legislature failed to complete that decennial duty this year.

In addition to Higginbotham, federal District Judges T. John Ward and John Hannah, both Tyler Democrats, comprise the panel.

Bob Richter can be reached at brichter@express-news.net.

Dallas Morning News
Map Should Reflect Ethnic Growth, All Agree; But many disputes persist as redistricting trial begins in Austin
By Sam Attlesey
October 23, 2001

Texas needs new congressional districts that would enable more Hispanics and blacks to win election, lawyers for civil rights groups, Democrats and Republicans agreed Monday.

But there was widespread disagreement over where the new districts should be located and the impact they would have on districts held by white incumbents.

Several proposed congressional redistricting maps were unveiled during the opening day of a federal court trial where three judges will determine the state's political landscape for the next decade.

"Texas is a big state, and what we're about to do is no small task," U.S. Circuit Court Judge Patrick Higginbotham said at the beginning of the trial.

He also reminded the lawyers in the case that the federal court panel was starting from scratch, shaping a plan that redraws the state's 32 congressional districts.

That is because the Texas Supreme Court on Friday rejected a redistricting plan drawn by a state district court judge that would have protected most congressional incumbents.

The all-Republican high court ruled that state District Judge Paul Davis, a Democrat, drew his plan without due process.

The courts assumed the chore of redrawing congressional and legislative districts after lawmakers failed to do so during the regular session.

After the federal court panel completes a congressional map, it will consider challenges to plans reshaping the state's 31 Senate districts and 150 House districts.

The Republican-controlled Legislative Redistricting Board drew those plans.

Also Monday, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the Republican members of the board who drew the legislative plans do not have to give depositions regarding why they drew the boundaries as they did.

Lawyers for Democrats had sought the depositions, but the high court ruled that the board members and their aides had "legislative immunity" when the districts were drawn.

Meanwhile, the focus of the opening day in the federal court congressional trial was minority representation in the state's congressional delegation.

Members of the federal panel peppered lawyers with questions about how to craft a map that does not violate the Voting Rights Act.

In addition to Judge Higginbotham, appointed to the federal judiciary by a Republican, the other members of the panel are U.S. District Judges T. John Ward and John Hannah, both Democratic appointees.

Lawyers for civil rights groups argued that more minority congressional districts should be drawn to reflect the minority population in the state. Of the 21 million Texans, 6.7 million are Hispanic and 2.4 million are black.

In the current 30-member congressional delegation, there are six Hispanics and two blacks.

"It is Texas Latinos that drive the extraordinary growth in Texas," said Nina Perales, a lawyer for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, noting that Hispanics accounted for 60 percent of the state's population growth during the past decade.

She said there should be seven congressional districts in South and West Texas, one in Harris County and one in Dallas County that could elect Hispanics.

Morris Overstreet, president of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats, said that in addition to the existing two black districts in the Dallas and Houston areas, a new black district could and should be drawn in Harris County.

"African-Americans ought to have an opportunity to elect another member of Congress," he said.

Republican lawyers in the case also presented proposed congressional maps that could enhance minority representation.

And Andy Taylor, who is representing the state in the case, offered what he labeled "the Texas plan." Under that proposal, there would be eight Hispanic districts, three black districts and a new open seat in Travis County that would largely consist of Hispanics and blacks.

Associated Press
Court to Review Texas Redistricting
By Connie Mabin
October 22, 2001

The Texas Legislature has failed. So has the state's courts. Now the future of the state's 32 congressional districts lies in the hands of a federal court.

Opening statements were set to begin Monday in a trial that will decide the political landscape of Texas, a decision that could affect the composition of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Minority advocates say they want to not only seek districts favorable to electing minorities, but protect black and Hispanic votes from being diluted or canceled out by unfair numbers of white votes.

Of Texas' 20.9 million people, 6.7 million are Hispanic and 2.4 million are black, according to the 2000 census. The Legislature was to use the census data to draw district maps, but lawmakers failed to come up with a plan.

On Friday, the Texas Supreme Court threw out a state judge's congressional map favored by Democrats. That meant a three-judge panel - federal Circuit Court Judge Patrick Higginbotham and federal District Judges T. John Ward and John Hannah - will work from a blank slate.

They will draw the state's 32 congressional districts, two more than the 30 - 17 Democratic, 13 Republicans - Texas currently has.

Attorney General John Cornyn, representing Republican Gov. Rick Perry and others, said he wants "to move forward in federal court to secure a fair congressional redistricting plan for all Texans.''

To Republicans, that means blocking Democrats from seeking the favorable districts Texas House Speaker Pete Laney and others desire.

Texas Democratic Party chairwoman Molly Beth Malcolm said she trusts the federal judges will develop a fair plan, which her party envisions as one plugging the GOP growth Republicans say is rightly theirs.

Both sides say they can get what they want without violating the federal Voting Rights Act protecting minorities.

Morris Overstreet and other minority advocates say they are fighting for more than how district lines will be drawn on a map. They want a louder minority voice on issues like education, health care and economic development.

"This event will decide who you send there to Washington, to Congress, to make the decisions,'' said Overstreet, a former judge and president of the Coalition of Black Democrats.

Nina Perales, an attorney with the nonprofit Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, will argue not for Democrats or Republicans, she said, but for ``Latino voting rights.''

``Latinos are such a large percentage of the state, one-third of the state is Latino, and without adequate numbers they will not be able to elect their candidate of choice,'' Perales said.

Meanwhile, the judges face a battle of their own: a race against the clock. It's unclear if new districts will be in place in time for candidates to file for those seats before the Jan. 2, 2002, filing deadline.

 

 

 

Roll Call
Between the Lines (excerpt)
By John Mercurio
October 22, 2001
 
"Frankenstein" in Texas
 
Republicans scrambled last week to block federal judges from using a Democratic-drawn House map as a starting point for deliberations over the state's redistricting process, arguing that they should substitute a map drawn by state Attorney General John Cornyn, a Republican.
 
Appearing before his former colleagues at the state's all-Republican Supreme Court, Cornyn, a 2002 Senate candidate, called a map drawn by state District Court Judge Paul Davis a "Frankenstein" plan created from the "body parts" of rejected maps.
 
Davis, a Democrat, initially ordered a redistricting plan that would have given Republicans a chance to win 20 of the state's 32 new districts. But Davis later reversed himself and asked for a map that likely would result in a 17-15 Democratic majority. Democrats now hold a 17-13 majority. Texas gained two House seats in reapportionment.
 
The three-judge federal panel has said it will consider Davis' map as the state's official plan. Cornyn would prefer the federal judges consider a GOP-leaning map he drew or start trial without designating an official plan. The state Supreme Court is expected to issue an order before the federal trial begins today.

Amarillo Globe-News
Court Nixes Redistricting Plan; Battle over state's districts for U.S. reps moves to federal level
By Deon Daugherty
October 20, 2001

In a decision late Friday, the Texas Supreme Court rejected a state trial court's plan for Texas' congressional lines, effectively giving a federal panel a fresh start on the controversy Monday.

The all-Republican court's 6-3 decision said several last-minute changes to the plan initially offered by Travis County District Judge Paul Davis violated due course of law.

On Oct. 10, Davis produced a plan of sweeping changes to the lines that designate the districts that send representatives to Washington, implementing several changes suggested by House Speaker Pete Laney, D-Hale Center, and other Democrats.

The initial Davis plan of Oct. 3 gave the GOP an opportunity to win a majority in Texas' congressional delegation. Republicans, initially wary of the plan, had approved of it by early Oct. 10, just as Davis was indicating he was seriously considering changes proposed by the speaker.

Currently, Democrats dominate the partisan breakdown, 17-13. The first Davis plan would have given Republicans an edge in Texas' delegation, with as many as 20 possible seats.

Davis is a Democrat not seeking re-election.

Davis' Oct. 10 plan would likely perpetuate a Democrat majority, 17-15.

Laney's attorneys had argued that the first Davis plan didn't consider communities of interest, and House redistricting chairman Rep. Delwin Jones, R-Lubbock, went to work drawing lines that would maintain three solid rural districts in West Texas.

Davis' first plan moved the district of U.S. Rep. Charles Stenholm, D-Abilene, east into parts of metropolitan Tarrant County.

Texas Attorney General John Cornyn had filed an emergency appeal that the Texas high court heard Thursday.

Cornyn argued that as the state's attorney, his map should have been the starting point for deliberation instead of simply being one among the 11 plans considered. Otherwise, he said, Davis should have ruled his map illegal, which he did not.

State Supreme Court justices rejected Cornyn's assertion that he speaks for the Legislature "and thus the trial court must adopt his plan," saying such a situation would violate the separation of powers doctrine.

However, the justices also said the trial court's last-minute switch violated the parties due course of law rights.

Democrat attorneys said two weeks of evidence heard during the state court trial provided the needed due process.

Cornyn said in a statement that he is pleased with the Supreme Court's reversal of Davis' decision.

"We intend to move forward in federal court to secure a fair congressional redistricting plan for all Texans," Cornyn said.

Democrat attorneys in the matter couldn't be reached for comment late Friday.

But Jones said the matter was a "power grab" on the part of the attorney general.

"This is just a big political fight," Jones said. "It's the big cities trying to wrestle the power away from the rural parts of Texas."

The Legislature failed to complete redistricting, putting the matter into court.

A federal panel of judges is scheduled to consider the congressional lines Monday in Austin.



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