The E-Mails The Feds Say Show Texas Lawmakers Trying To Limit Voting Power Of Hispanics

October 28, 2011 8:00 a.m.

The feds say there’s “ample circumstantial evidence” that the redistricting maps signed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry had the effect and intent of limiting the voting power of Hispanic voters. But what’s the evidence exactly? Let’s take a look.

The most telling evidence Justice Department lawyers cite in terms of the state redistricting maps is a comment from state Rep. Beverly Woolley, who led the redistricting process in Harris County (an effort which excluded any minority members of the Harris County delegation). “[Y]ou all are protected by the Voting Rights Act and we are not,” Woolley told a number of minority representatives. “We don’t want to lose these people due to population growth in the county, or we won’t have any districts left.”In another instance, Rep. John Garza told Rep. Joe Farias that he needed “more Mexicans in [his] district” but rejected areas where Hispanics were politically organized.

DOJ’s expert report also cites emails to and from Rep. Lamar Smith, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee which oversees DOJ. The expert says the emails make it clear that “racial as well as political data were most accurately driving the line drawing.”

Smith had said in an early email that they agreed “not going to seek (Justice Department) preclearance but will go to a three-judge panel in D.C.”

Here’s an email that Smith was copied on that discusses moving Hispanic voters around, with analysis from DOJ’s expert:

As TPM previously reported, one longtime Republican staffer didn’t think that the maps they were planning were a great idea:

Dub Maines, a staffer for Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) wrote in an email on June 9 that the “idea of challenging the Constitutionality of Section 5 is high-risk poker with no discernible positive return.” He thought that the redistricting map “has next to no chance of pre-clearance” – either by the Justice Department or the D.C. circuit court.

“The map I’ve sent you has a very high probability of pre-clearing – at least in the DC court,” Maines wrote. “This is the analysis of those who have practiced in the Voting Rights area – very successfully – for over 25 years. I would encourage you to speak with them about the Committee-passed map. They may be from evil DC, but they ARE the premier experts in this area, and I believe it would be prudent to entertain their thoughts on this map!”

Another exchange cited in the emails comes from Republican Congressman Kenny Marchant who wrote in asking for the Hockaday School where his “grand babies go” to be added to his district.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said DOJ’s arguments are bogus.

“Despite their outrageous claims, if one looks behind DOJ’s inflammatory rhetoric, they produce no genuine evidence of discrimination,” said spokeswoman Lauren Bean. “Ironically, DOJ is objecting to districts that the Legislature specifically enacted to protect Hispanic incumbents – who happen to be Republicans – in the same manner that the Legislature worked to protect incumbents of both parties.”

All of the disclosed emails are available here.

[Correction: Rep. John Garza told Rep. Joe Farias that he needed “more Mexicans in [his] district,” Farias did not say that himself according to the court filings.]

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