Tarrant County Democratic lawmakers Wendy Davis and Marc Veasey have teamed up with several minority voters in North Texas in seeking to intervene in the state's efforts to get pre-clearance for a legislative redistricting plan that the Democrats say is an affront to minorities.
Davis is a first-term state senator and Veasey is a state representative.
Davis and Veasey filed a motion in federal court this morning aiming to intervene in the state's effort to get four redistricting maps approved in time for the 2012 elections.
Texas is among the states that must still get pre-clearance of redistricting plans under the federal Voting Rights Act. Earlier this week, the Texas Attorney General's office filed a "pre-clearance submission" in federal court requesting that a three-judge panel approve the state's new redistricting maps.
Traditionally, state officials seek out the U.S. Justice Department for that clearance. Texas decided to officially file the request in federal court and "informally" submit the information to the Department of Justice, according to legal filings. Democrats have charged that the state's Republican leadership is pursuing the court case because they know a Justice Department under the Obama administration would determine the maps are in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Davis and Veasey are hoping their legal action will allow them to argue against the Republican-approved maps in the federal case.
Their motion focuses largely on the congressional plan and specifically the way Senate District 10, currently represented by Davis, was redrawn in the new state senate map. In both cases, the Fort Worth Democrats argue that large minority communities are purposely drawn into districts where their voting strength would be effectively drowned out.
"I felt it was important to make a stand with voters of Senate District 10 because I have a responsibility to help protect the voting rights of those citizens in Fort Worth, Arlington and other parts of north Texas whose neighborhoods were torn apart by this partisan power grab," Davis said in a prepared statement released this morning.
"I intend to work closely with citizens in our neighborhoods throughout this legal process and do everything I can to see this illegal map overturned and the rights of voters in our area protected," she said.
Texas lawmakers redrew the state's political boundaries this year to reflect population changes. The Legislature approved maps for legislative, congressional and State Board of Education districts. Democrats repeatedly criticized the maps as designed to shore up Republican majorities and disenfranchise minority voters.
"This is not about Democrats and Republicans, this is about protecting the voting rights of Fort Worth citizens," Veasey said. "We will show that the redistricting plan passed by Republicans harms the ability of minority voters to meaningfully participate in elections."
We've posted the motion filed by Veasey and Davis here.
-- John Gravois and Aman Batheja