« Ohio Sec-State's presidential voting returns website | Main | Funniest line I've read tonight »

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

In a victory for (small-d) democracy, Texas voters "re-enfranchised" in Congressional elections

Tonight the tenacious and pernicious effects of a pro-Democratic gerrymander dating back to 1991 were finally erased.  Due to the successful redistricting completed by the Texas Legislature in 2003 — the first and only redistricting completed by that body, in the due performance of its assigned duties under the state and federal constitutions, to account for the results of the 2000 Census (and Republicans have pledged that there will not be another until after the 2010 Census) — Texas' congressional representation in the next Congress will now reflect the Republicans' strong majority-party status in this state.  Republicans will hold 21 of 32 Congressional seats, or 66 percent of the total.  Dubya pulled just over 61 percent state-wide, suggesting that the pro-Republican tilt to the 2003 map is pretty mild and reasonably accurately reflects Texas' overall Republican-Democratic voter proportions.

My title for this post is tongue-in-cheek.  Those who've read my many, many past posts on the Texas redistricting will know that I've consistently objected to Democratic claims that redistricting — even highly partisan gerrymandering — "disenfranchises" voters.  Disenfranchisement means depriving someone of his right to vote.  Redistricting/gerrymandering doesn't do that; under both the old map and the new map, essentially every eligible voter in Texas who wanted to do so, was indeed able to cast his or her vote and have it counted.  One has a sacred right to vote, but one doesn't have a sacred right to have his or her preferred candidate win.

What the 2003 redistricting accomplished — within the limits imposed by the Voting Rights Act, which essentially transformed minority-race Democratic incumbents into untouchable sacred cows whose districts must remain gerrymandered to ensure their perpetual re-election — was to unpack Republicans (who'd previously had their votes purposefully diluted by the pro-Dem gerrymander in 1991) into a larger number of districts. 

The sacrificial lambs of the 2003 Texas redistricting and the 2004 Congressional election thus became incumbent white male Democrats who — stripped of their own gerrymandered advantages — turned out not to be so well beloved by their new mix of constituents as they'd claimed they would be.  Charlie Stenholm, Max Sandlin, Nick Lampson, and (most sweetly, because he was the architect of the earlier pro-Dem gerrymander) Martin Frost took dirt naps.  Another white male Dem incumbent, Chet Edwards, is leading as I write this, and if he indeed wins that will show that the redrawn districts were not entirely uncompetitive.  White male Dem incumbent Lloyd Doggett won, as expected — but only after moving to run in a new district that was created with the expectation that it would be Democratic-leaning and that the Dems would pick a hispanic candidate.  (El Patron Doggett used all of his many advantages of incumbency, fund-raising, and name recognition to squash his Democratic primary opponent, former judge Leticia Hinojosa; I'm still waiting for the Dems to scream "racism" and "sexism," but there's been a strange silence.)

I've consistently maintained that the Dems' resistance to redistricting was profoundly anti-(small-d)-democratic.  Yes, gerrymandering is brutal; yes, we should consider some sort of redistricting reform (although I've yet to see a plan that I could endorse unreservedly).  But tonight's Texas Congressional election results can be traced directly back not to the decisions of Texas voters who in 2002 put both chambers of the Legislature and the Lieutenant Governorship and Governorship into the hands of the Republicans.  Tom DeLay merely guided his statehouse colleagues in using the voting majorities that Texas voters had placed into Republican hands. 

As I wrote on October 18th, I believe that the nominally still-pending legal challenge to the 2003 map will be summarily rejected again by the three-judge panel that approved that map in January, and that the panel's decision will then be summarily affirmed, probably without oral argument or written opinion, by the Supreme Court.  Edwards' win effectively drives a final coffin nail into the argument that the Dems have no chance of prevailing in any of the non-minority-incumbent redrawn districts.

I'm well pleased.  It was a good night for small-d democracy in Texas.

(Footnote for out-of-state readers who remember Rathergate:  David Van Os, one-time lawyer for CBS News source Bill Burkett, was soundly trounced (60/40) in his race for a Texas Supreme Court seat by superbly qualified incumbent Scott Brister.)

Posted by Beldar at 02:01 AM in Law (2006 & earlier), Politics (2006 & earlier), Texas Redistricting | Permalink


Other weblog posts, if any, whose authors have linked to In a victory for (small-d) democracy, Texas voters "re-enfranchised" in Congressional elections and sent a trackback ping are listed here:


(1) Ron made the following comment | Nov 3, 2004 9:40:29 AM | Permalink

Van Os' defeat made my day. Thanks for that bit of good news.

(2) Mark in Mexico made the following comment | Nov 3, 2004 11:12:53 AM | Permalink

Dirt naps?

Must be some obscure, little-used legal term, possibly dating back to the Magna Carta, no?

(3) Thomas Hazlewood made the following comment | Nov 3, 2004 7:09:43 PM | Permalink

If you want a solution to gerrymandering, just eliminate ALL such delineations and give each voter 10 votes to cast for or divide amongst any, or as many, state candidates as one wishes. Minorities could vote all their ten for one candidate and virtually lock up that slot, but they'd sacrifice the opportunity to vote for any others.

(4) Lee Shore made the following comment | Nov 4, 2004 9:19:55 PM | Permalink


I actually am sorry to see Charlie Stenholm go -- my fellow Swedish-American. And a conservative Southern Democrat, as I once was before Jimmy Carter ripped the scales from my eyes.

That said, my plaint: Why oh why didn't the Lege figure out some way to redistrict Sheila Jackson-Lee out of her seat? She is of like kidney to Cynthia McKinney and the dreadful Maxine Waters.


(5) Abacus made the following comment | May 10, 2005 11:35:59 AM | Permalink

Republican House candidates received 57% (or 18/32) of the vote and now hold 66% of the seats (or 21/32). Neat trick. Maybe the legislature ought to reconsider given its actions have accidentally caused the Republicans to win too many seats relative to their statewide popularity?

The comments to this entry are closed.