Sunday, August 11, 2013

Is Texas using Back-Door Discrimination to Disenfranchise Hispanic Voters?

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is suing Texas for allegedly violating part of the Voting Rights Act, claiming that Texas Republicans redrew district boundaries purposely to alienate Hispanic voters. Texas responded by saying they didn't redraw the boundaries to alienate Hispanics but to make it more difficult for Democrats to get elected. And if Hispanics tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic, well, that just makes them collateral damage. So, I guess the question then becomes, Is it legal (moral, ethical) to discriminate against a minority group simply by virtue of their political preference? Isn't this really a form of de facto segregation?

In 1970 the Supreme Court ruled in Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education that schools that were segregated only because local neighborhoods tended to be segregated were still denying equal education under Brown v. Board of Education. The majority interpretation was that Brown was a charge to integrate schools rather than a charge to no longer segregate. Voting districts are not schools, but this type of de facto segregation exists in the voting districts and Holder may have the rule of law on his side.

On the other hand, four years later, the Supreme Court ruled in Milliken v. Bradley that school districts were under no obligation to force integration if schools were segregated due to the existing segregation within the neighborhoods but only if the schools themselves had a prior policy of segregation. Again, we're not dealing with schools here, but parallels can be drawn.

The basic question is, If the people of Texas choose to live in a certain neighborhood in order to be closer to their own ethnic group and if that ethnic group tends to vote a certain way, can the district maps be redrawn in such a way that it disenfranchises them due to their voting record even if that means it also disenfranchises them due to their ethnicity, which is clearly against the law?

I guess we'll see.

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