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Texas Redrawn: Voting Rights, States' Power In Court

Publication Date: 
January 09, 2012
Source: 
National Public Radio - Morning Edition
Author: 
Nina Totenberg

Professor Pamela Karlan spoke with NPR's Nina Totenberg about the Texas Redistricting case before the Supreme Court and compares the actions of the state to "the claim of somebody who kills his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he's an orphan."

The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Monday in a tangle of Texas redistricting cases, with repercussions beyond the Lone Star State. Consolidated into one test, the cases pit the Voting Rights Act and its protections for minority voters against state legislative powers — with an overlaying sheen of sheer political calculus.

The case has been called a puzzle of three courts, a reference to the interplay between two lower courts and the Supreme Court.

...

But minority groups, backed by the Obama administration, reply that whatever pickle the state finds itself in is of its own making, since it has long known the timetable. They note that the state chose to bypass the quick Justice Department pre-clearance mechanism. And they maintain that the state has deliberately dragged out the court pre-clearance process. Stanford law professor Pam Karlan is one of the lawyers challenging the state plan.

PAM KARLAN: Texas' claim that this process has bogged down and therefore it should somehow be excused is a little bit reminiscent of the claim of somebody who kills his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he's an orphan.

NINA TOTENBERG: Indeed, Karlan observes that the state has redrawn a district that the Supreme Court threw out just five years ago for minimizing Latino voting power. While Texas claims that the state legislature's map is entitled to the presumption of good faith, those challenging the map contend that to allow Texas to use a plan that has not been pre-cleared would be an end run that effectively nullifies the minority voter protections in the voting rights law.