The Voting Rights Act requires many parts of the country to “preclear” any changes to their voting law to ensure that those changes do not discriminate on the basis of race. Either the Department of Justice or the federal courts in DC can preclear a new voting law, but states have almost always sought preclearence in the past from the Justice Department because it is both better equipped to evaluate new laws than the overburdened federal courts and better able to do so quickly.
Despite this fact, a few GOP-led states turned to the federal courts this year either to make a political statement about their distrust of the Obama Administration or because they actually believed some of the paranoid fantasies voter suppression attorneys told them about the Administration’s plans to block Republican-friendly policies. One of these states was Texas, which just received a very disappointing answer from George W. Bush-appointed judges Thomas Griffith and Rosemary Collyer:
The three-judge panel appointed to hear the case received extensive briefing and held lengthy oral argument on November 2, 2011. If any one of the plans is not precleared by this Court at this stage in the proceedings, the District Court for the Western District of Texas must designate a substitute interim plan for the 2012 election cycle by the end of November. Therefore, the Court issues its Order promptly and will issue a memorandum opinion hereafter.
Having carefully considered the entire record and the parties’ arguments, the Court finds and concludes that the State of Texas used an improper standard or methodology to determine which districts afford minority voters the ability to elect their preferred candidates of choice and that there are material issues of fact in dispute that prevent this Court from entering declaratory judgment that the three redistricting plans meet the requirements of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.
We eagerly await Gov. Rick Perry’s (R-TX) outraged statement accusing two George W. Bush appointed judges of unvarnished partisanship by denying preclearence to Texas’ map.