Suit says Hispanics will be harmed in representation.
By John W. Gonzalez | My San Antonio
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
A federal lawsuit filed Monday by some Texas House members blasts the use of “inaccurate” 2010 Census data in the remapping of state political jurisdictions.
The lawsuit by the Mexican American Legislative Caucus against Gov. Rick Perry and top lawmakers alleges that the census vastly undercounted Hispanics, especially in the border region. As a result, Latinos will be shortchanged in their representation at the Legislature and the State Board of Education, the lawsuit claims.
Additionally, the lawsuit calls for an end to at-large statewide election of the three Texas Railroad Commission members, replacing that system with voting by single-member places. The lawsuit says that since 1891, only three Hispanics have served as railroad commissioners — none in the past 20 years — but that “a fairly drawn single-member district can result in one district with a majority Latino citizen voting-age population.”
Alleging violations of the federal Voting Rights Act, the lawsuit says census tallies from Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Webb, El Paso, Dallas and Harris counties severely underestimated the Hispanic populations there. Bexar County wasn't mentioned.
The pleadings say the Republican leadership was planning “to limit the number of Latino majority districts and to even eliminate an existing majority Latino district in Nueces County. Defendants also employ redistricting gerrymandering techniques such as packing and over-populating minority districts in order to minimize minority opportunity districts.”
The lawsuit comes less than two weeks after the GOP-dominated Texas House approved new configurations for its 150 districts. The House and Senate have approved new territories for the 15 State Board of Education districts. The 31-member Texas Senate has yet to approve new Senate district lines, and neither chamber has agreed to a congressional map. Texas, which has 32 seats in the U.S. House, is getting four more because of population growth.
The caucus filed a similar lawsuit a month ago in Brownsville.
Perry's office deferred comment to the attorney general's office, which had no immediate reaction because it had not yet received the litigation.
Another lawsuit filed Monday challenges the way the census counted inmates around the state. That lawsuit, filed by state Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, claims that inmates should be counted as residents of their home counties, not where they are incarcerated.