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Will Texas Remap Case Change '06 Landscape?

The decision Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case challenging a Texas congressional remap engineered by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has any number of interesting political implications.

The first -- and most obvious -- is what effect a ruling overturning the Texas districts would have on the 2006 midterms. Since the court is set to hear arguments in the case sometime in March or April (with a ruling expected in June), a ruling against the Texas map would likely be too late to have any impact on 2006. 

Texas holds one of the earliest congressional primaries in the country -- March 7 So, when the court rules, primaries in Texas's 32 congressional districts will have already occurred, making it entirely impractical for a change in boundaries effective in 2006. Should the court remand the case to a lower court for the districts to be redrawn, it would create a chaotic 2008 election -- just three years before the lines would be re-crafted after the 2010 census.

A second interesting tangent is how the court's review of the map affects DeLay's hopes of returning to his leadership position when Congress reconvenes at the end of January. Because DeLay is so closely associated with the Texas remap, it is likely to be seen as another strike against him by members who feel his return as majority leader could cast a shadow over the party in the 2006 elections.  Even before today, Reps. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) and Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.) had expressed misgiving about DeLay as leader.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee sought to foment that feeling Monday, distributing a memo that described the Supreme Court decision as "another blow to indicted, former Republican Leader Tom DeLay and national Republicans." The DCCC memo also makes reference to the fact that several Justice Department lawyers in the voting rights division had serious concerns about the redrawn map, a revelation first reported in a blockbuster story by the Post's own Dan Eggen.

Kevin Madden, a spokesman for DeLay, called the Democrats' argument "nonsensical political babble." Madden added that DeLay is confident that the Supreme Court will reaffirm the legality of the map and that this decision "marks the last stage of the redistricting process."

Even as DeLay's political future remains an open question, Acting House Majority Leader Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) is ensuring that he is properly positioned to remove the "acting" from his title if DeLay can't return. Last night, Blunt and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani raised $300,000 for seven vulnerable GOP incumbents: Reps. Charles Boustany (La.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Jim Gerlach (Pa.), Tim Murphy (Pa.), Rob Simmons (Conn.), Mike Sodrel (Ind.) and Shays.

UPDATE, 4:45 p.m. ET: As several Fix readers pointed out, there is some recent history suggesting that if the Supreme Court invalidates the Texas congressional map, it could also call for a redraw to be installed in time for the 2006 elections.

In the summer of 1996, a three-judge federal panel threw out the Texas map that had been used for the state's recently completed congressional primaries and eventually redrew lines in 13 districts.  The primary results were thrown out and filing reopened.  The candidates were forced to run in November special elections under the new lines. In three seats (the 8th, 9th and 25th), December runoffs were necessary because none of the candidates received 50 percent of the vote in the special.

In the 8th, Kevin Brady (R) won an open seat; Nick Lampson (D) upset then Rep. Steve Stockman (R) in the 9th; Ken Bentsen (D) won a second term in the 25th.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 13, 2005; 8:45 AM ET
Categories:  House  
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Comments

If a Democrat does something that is right but if a Republican does it, then it becomes wrong is the partisan view keeping our nation in gridlock. The power to make decisions about districts is a political one, based on which group of people is put in charge of the redrawing the of the map. If the Texas districts gained 1 or 2 seats for Hispanics or blacks to have more representation, then the Supreme Court is going to be more focused on that issue. The Democrats can scream corruption all they want to, but unless there is a clear line of funds moving from an illegal source in the Dems so-called "money laundering" claim, the case will not giving the Dems a HAMMER to smack upon DeLay's head. Most people want to see evidence instead of rumors and gossip in a court of law. That is the saving grace of our law and order system. So let's go to our neutral corners until the Supreme Court makes a decision on the Texas case in 2006.

Posted by: Crystal Dueker | December 19, 2005 10:45 PM | Report abuse

Sean,
You are incorrect about the '01 map. There are statistical measures of compactness and the '03 map beats the '01 map. Keep in mind, the '01 map was, by the court's admission, a modification of the travesty of the '90s. Admittedly, the '01 map does correct some of the more egregious problems from Mr. Frost's '90's versions.
In the current map, East Texas has many fewer split counties (3) than it did before. They are to get 5 districts to zero deviation as required by "one man, one vote." Due to that requirement to get to absolute zero deviation, some areas are going to get split in less than advantageous ways. When the Dems drew, it was Republican Midland County split into three. When the Republicans drew, it was Democrat Travis County (Austin) split into three. As an aside, Travis is about 7 times the size of Midland. Travis has to be split at least once by law. Midland doesn't. Also, Travis is much better off with two Members instead of one. McCaul is already much more influential than Doggett ever was, as Doggett is arguably the single least effective Member of Congress. A great number of Austinites may agree with his rantings, but he has accomplished next to nothing for them, and he was in the majority for quite a while.
Of course, I agree that Presidential numbers should not be used to demonstrate Republican strength in the Texas. Texas was voting for Republican Presidents back when the Congressional delegation was 100% Dem! That's why I used the combined Congressional vote in the post above to which you refer. You can argue about the past and you can even argue about the future, but Texas IS a strong Republican state now. No Democrat has been elected to any of the 27 state-wide offices since the early '90.

Joe,
SCOTUS is not considering the map for the two houses of the state legislature. It was drawn by the Texas' Legislative Redistricting Board in '01 - not the Legislature; not Tom DeLay - and has been in effect since the '02 elections. Tom DeLay had nothing to do with it, nor would he have wanted to. The LRB was already 4 Republicans and 1 Democrat. Now, it's 5-0 (Lt. Gov., Speaker, AG, Comptroller, & Land Office Commissioner). Also, any plan is going to result in "one man, one vote," gerrymandered or not. The requirements for Texas are 21 districts with a gross population of 651,619 based on the 1 Apr 00 census, and 11 districts of 651,620. The '01 and the '03 plan both meet that.

Posted by: Dub | December 14, 2005 5:31 PM | Report abuse

I remember Tom De Lay bragging how the new redisrited vote map in Texas would enure a Republican State Legislature in Texas forever. On that basis alone, I would say it deserves to be thrown out by the SC. Having said that, what ever chaos is needed for a fair election should be endured. That,s what this country used to be about. Remember the the old anti gerimandering rule we were so proud to quote "One man - one vote".

Posted by: Joe | December 14, 2005 11:52 AM | Report abuse

Oops... the above post is mine and directed at Dub...

Posted by: seank | December 14, 2005 10:55 AM | Report abuse

You obviously aren't thinking of the '01 map if you're talking about geographic gerrymandering. Certainly, the map in the '90s had plenty of that... but the '01 map had districts that were much more compact and respectful of county lines than the current travesty (just look at Travis county or East Texas, for instance).

As for your contention that the delegation should represent the % received by a party in the Presidential vote... nonsense. Texas is really not as GOP a state as the Presidential results suggest. Moreover, rural Democrats repreesented the rural areas of the state very well... the new map eliminates districts for communities of interest in East Texas/Travis County by combining them with very-GOP Harris suburbs...

Posted by: Dub | December 14, 2005 10:54 AM | Report abuse

CORRECTION:
I said above that Texas had court-ordered special elections in '86. It was actually in '96.

Posted by: Dub | December 14, 2005 10:47 AM | Report abuse

For the past 40 years, the dems used the social security fund as their personal treasury. If it were for good folks like Tom Delay, they would do it again and control all legislative districts and redraw all the boundaries every ten years. The Dems count their dead relatives in the Census, all family tombstones, their cats and their dogs. They also have their cats and dogs getting welfare, social security, medicaid and medicare. For 40 years the DEms have been sitting on their ass(S) getting free ride food stamp and free medicare without ever paying a single dollars worth of taxes.

Posted by: Merna Impersonator | December 13, 2005 8:21 PM | Report abuse

Smart money isn't very smart then if it's all based on what happens in Texas. Most of the Dems that lost were in marginal districts to begin with that were becoming increasingly Republican. The Congressmen maintained their hold through the various powers, perks, and name identification of incumbency. That's gone for them now and incumbent Republican have them now.
In '86 the courts ordered special elections in several Texas districts after the lines were adjusted at that time to correct an earlier illegal Martin Frost gerrymander. I suppose they could do it again.

Posted by: Dub | December 13, 2005 4:08 PM | Report abuse

How clear is it that a June decision by the Court would be too late for the '06 elections? Special elections frequently happen on shorter notice than that.

I could easily imagine the Supreme Court ordering the '06 elections to take place using the pre-rigged boundaries. Sure, it would be unusual and awkward. But it could be done. If it does happen, then the smart money is on the GOP losing control of the House.

Posted by: Jackson Landers | December 13, 2005 3:15 PM | Report abuse

Go to http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec03/texas_07-14.html

and read the history of this in the words of both Republicans and Democrats discussing this on the Newshour back when it was first proposed.

Posted by: Arminda | December 13, 2005 2:35 PM | Report abuse

By every statistical measure, the 2003 map is less gerrymandered than the 2001 map, which was a "least change" modification (by the three judge panel) of the map that Martin Frost and then-Texas state senator Eddie Berniece Johnson drew in the 90's. At the time she was chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee. The Supreme Court said of one district in that map that it was the most gerrymandered district in the history of the Republic. Somehow that district, with various coiling snakes, managed to cut all of the Republicans out of Mr. Frost's district.
The new map splits fewer cities and counties, has a lower smallest circle average, lower perimeter average, etc. Yes, it elects a lot more Republicans to Congress than Democrats. I doubt this is a shocker, but Texas has a lot more Republican voters! Under the old map, Texas would cast over 55% of its combined Congressional vote for Republicans, yet produce less than a 47% Republican delegation. That's fine gerrymandering by Mr. Frost! He was perhaps the best ever at packing the most Republicans into the fewest districts and then spreading around the Democrat voters to as many as possible. He cut a few of the latter too closely, and hence John Bryant (D) was replaced by Pete Sessions (R) and Pete Geren (D) was replaced by Kay Granger (R)-- of course, he never cut his old district quite that closely!
As to the partisan nature of the map, sure it is. Texas is now a one-party Republican state. But isn't a map that produces a large majority of Republican Congressman in a large majority Republican state less partisan than a map that produces a majority of Democrat Congressmen in that same state?

Posted by: Dub | December 13, 2005 1:39 PM | Report abuse

I wonder how many Katrina victims are now living in Texas, and how that might effect an election. I can't help but feel like we are doomed, if we end up with more croonies, Republican or Demorcratic. Any way to keep friends of friends, and children of friends etc., of Politicians out of descision making jobs. Probably not, so what are we to do. Thank god for blogs, I can't help but wonder when these will be illegal too!

Posted by: Catherine | December 13, 2005 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Gerrymandering can't be eliminated. Everybody does it. I mean -- hello -- the word itself references a Massachusetss politician who signed the Declaration of Independence.

The Supreme Court will (I assume)try to define how far politicians can take gerrmandering -- and what remedies, if any, are available to those who believe their actions violate other laws.

We have passed this way before.

Posted by: Mike 234 | December 13, 2005 1:12 PM | Report abuse

Gerrymandering, I believe is the term, has been the discreet toy politicians have been allowed to play with for centuries. This is further evidence that parties have too much control over the electorate wishes. An accurate and precise census figure should be the determinate factor as to how voters become linked. Not party mandates.

Posted by: Roger | December 13, 2005 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Crystal, your argument of "Well, they did it too, it was okay then wasn't it?" won't fly in my book. It was wrong for Johnson it is wrong now. Just because it was allowed to stand way back when if stupid to compare to what is going on today. I'm tired of the "you did it too" argument. Two wrongs don't make it right. America suffers with your take.

Dub, if all was well prior to the mapping changing, why did the map get changed in the first place? Delay and his cronies had this great idea to get more Republicans in Congress. Redistricting was the means to get there. That's the whole deal. Period. God forbid them to go out and actually earn the votes from everyday people who they might sway towards their viewpoint. "Just redraw, fellas, we'll get the majority our way. To hell with the voters!!!!"

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2005 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Give me a break, Crystal. Your pathetic attempt to work Ramsey Clark into the redistricting debate is but another example of desperate Republican attempts to change the subject when you don't want -- or cannot -- deal with the substance of an issue.

Newsflash: Not all voters are as gullible as the Republican faux Christian base. Your "argument" is content-free.

Posted by: Mi | December 13, 2005 12:11 PM | Report abuse

Why did the federal judges have to step into the redistricting dispute? Call it gridlock or whatever you want, but to dismiss the point that Texas had a Republican governor since 1994, and by the time Lt. Gov Perry took over after Bush went to the White House, most of the elected officals were also Republican. The people who suffer are caught in the middle who are not able to vote until the dispute is settled. I am still waiting to hear a Democrat explain why President Johnson did the worst political sabotage by shoving US Supreme Court Justice Thomas Clark off the bench by naming his son Ramsey to become Att. General? We also saw another US Judge shoved off the bench for illegal money and for a criminal in prison bragging how Abe Fortas would help him get out of prison. By the way the Dems tell it, a person who did not know the story would think only Republicans were filibusting Associate Justice Fortas to depose him as Chief Justice. The man was facing impeachment, and left in disgrace. Look it up people, get informed and stand up to the twisted history rewritten by Democrats.

Posted by: Crystal Dueker | December 13, 2005 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Speaking to the specifics of the "evil" 2003 map, Texas now has 3 districts where African American voters control the outcome every time, which is roughly proportional to the percentage of African Americans in the state. The modified Martin Frost map which Texas was under for the 2002 elections only had two. I don't believe any other state in the country achieves that level of proportionality, but I'm not entirely sure on that one. I do know that no state does any better on that point.
Also, Texas increased the number of performing Hispanic districts by at least one in the 2003 map (Two, if you count Gene Green's. His district's Hispanic ratio went up to where it could probably be considered a performing Hispanic district if it wasn't before - an arguable point). Lloyd Doggett's new district (CD 25) is performing by every measure. Remember, performance is a measure of the voters' desires, not the color of the Congressman, and the Hispanic voters in that district voted for him in the primary and in the general.
In addition, no one but lawyers for white Democrat incumbents has ever said that "coalition" districts are in any way protected - certainly no court. If they had been protected, ALL Democrat districts except Charlie Stenholm's would have been protected simply because they are Democrat districts. That's ludicrous on it's face.
I would need to study the numbers, but I believe there are now more Anglos in performing Hispanic districts, than Hispanics in majority Anglo districts.
Finally, we live in a democracy. Staff (even DoJ voting rights section staff) do not make decisions; they make recommendations. There was never any intention to "insulate" Section 5 decisions from political appointees who are to represent the wishes of those whom the people have elected. If one disagrees with those decisions, publicize the "evil" nature of them and elect those who will not make them.

Posted by: Dub | December 13, 2005 12:01 PM | Report abuse

Slangwhanger wrote: "Why impute chaos to a mid-census redistricting, unless you are going to say something about "the chaotic DeLay-mandated redistricting for the 2004 election."

Good point. Chris is a little too easy on the Republicans -- to quick to buy their spin -- for my taste.

Posted by: Mike 234 | December 13, 2005 11:51 AM | Report abuse

You say, "Should the court remand the case to a lower court for the districts to be redrawn, it would create a chaotic 2008 election -- just three years before the lines would be re-crafted after the 2010 census."

Why impute chaos to a mid-census redistricting, unless you are going to say something about "the chaotic DeLay-mandated redistricting for the 2004 election"? If the Supremes can't decide in time for 2006, there is certainly enough time for 2008. And the justice of getting it right for 2008 and 2010 (even though that's "only three years") might be worth a small dose of chaos. If there were any.

That said, I can't imagine that a conservative activist Supreme Court that took away the State of Florida's right to interpret its own election laws is going to do anything but endorse the DeLay gerrymander...

Posted by: Slangwhanger-in-Chief | December 13, 2005 11:43 AM | Report abuse

I want back Martin Frost!

Posted by: Dru | December 13, 2005 11:14 AM | Report abuse

I want back Martin Frost!

Posted by: Dru | December 13, 2005 11:13 AM | Report abuse

The greatest gift DeLay could give to Democrats would be to return to his post as House Majority Leader. Let us pray. (You know he is.)

Posted by: Mike 234 | December 13, 2005 11:08 AM | Report abuse

DeLay got his after all the swagger and I believe the Court will further the demise of Tom DeLay, much to the chagrin of his party. He's an aenthma and even his own party members want him out.

Posted by: Tom Ontis | December 13, 2005 11:05 AM | Report abuse

Would the Supreme Court have accepted the case merely to rule the
Texas redistricting plan constitutional? Just curious.

Posted by: Mike 234 | December 13, 2005 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Looking at the case with a prejudiced eye based on what the supreme court has done to protect republicans since 2000, I suspect that they have taken the case so that they can make a final ruling in delay's favor.

Posted by: eckerjacob | December 13, 2005 10:58 AM | Report abuse

We know that the SC will validate the Texas districts given the make up of the court. Once that happens, all states will begin the process of creating boundaries to benefit one and only one political party. The justices are just hearing this case so the process can legally begin for 2008.

Posted by: Anonymous | December 13, 2005 10:48 AM | Report abuse

The Texas case could be very interesting, especially with a new Chief Justice and a possible Justice Alito on the bench by March 1. Will Justice Kennedy join a likely Stevens-Breyer-Ginsburg-Souter decision to form a five member majority? Will Kennedy still stall in his quest for a "real" gerrymander? Will Alito follow O'Connor's middle road realism? After all, his father was New Jersey's chief staffer for redistricting in the 70s and 80s. He knows how toiling the process can be.

Posted by: Veteran Lineman | December 13, 2005 10:16 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for noting the incorrect party ID on Boehlert. It's fixed.

Posted by: washingtonpost.com | December 13, 2005 9:51 AM | Report abuse

I'd thought/hoped it might be in time to affect the 06 elections. Thanks for the info though.

(You misattributed Rep. Boehlert as a Democrat)

Posted by: Sandwich Repairman | December 13, 2005 9:01 AM | Report abuse

"Sherwood Boehlert (D-N.Y.)" is a Republican.

Posted by: Laszlo | December 13, 2005 9:00 AM | Report abuse

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