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Justice Kennedy: Redrawn Map Hurt Texas Minorities

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060301/ap_on_go_su_co/scotus_texas_redistricting;_ylt=AoQ4KNSRrPW6LBQErvsysqWs0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTA3OXIzMDMzBHNlYwM3MDM- Court:
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      Court: Redrawn Map Hurt Texas Minorities

      By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 18
      minutes ago

      WASHINGTON - A key Supreme Court justice said
      Wednesday that Texas Republicans appeared to hurt
      minority voters when they redrew congressional
      boundaries that helped the GOP entrench its power in
      Congress.

      But despite Justice Anthony M. Kennedy's misgivings,
      it did not appear there was broad support on the high
      court to throw out the entire map promoted by former
      House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas to help
      Republicans win six more seats.

      Justices also did not seem ready to bar states from
      drawing their boundaries more than once a decade.

      The court took up four appeals that raised complicated
      questions about voter rights both under the
      Constitution and federal election law.

      The practical impact of the ruling, expected before
      July, is significant.

      "The fate of who controls the House of Representatives
      could lie with this decision," said Nathaniel Persily,
      a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

      Texas Republicans shifted congressional district
      boundaries enough in 2003 that 8 million people —
      including large blocks of Hispanics — were placed in
      new districts, represented by different U.S. House
      members, justices were told.

      Kennedy, a centrist swing voter, focused his concerns
      on how the shift affected Hispanics in South Texas.
      "It seems to me that is an affront and an insult," he
      said.

      The Texas boundaries were changed in 2003 after
      Republicans took control of both houses of the state
      Legislature. DeLay had helped GOP legislative
      candidates in 2002, and was a key player in getting
      the new map that benefited him and other Republican
      incumbents.

      Since then, however, he has struggled from the
      fallout. He was charged in state court with money
      laundering in connection with fundraising for
      legislative candidates. He gave up his leadership post
      and is fighting the charges.

      DeLay also was admonished by the House ethics
      committee for asking a federal agency to help track
      aircraft that flew several Democrats out of state as
      part of quorum-breaking walkouts during the bitter
      fight over maps.

      Justices did not mention DeLay, and he was not in the
      crowded courtroom.

      Afterward, R. Ted Cruz, the Texas solicitor general,
      repeated his courtroom arguments that Republicans were
      only replacing boundaries had been drawn to benefit
      Democrats and that did not reflect the
      Republican-leaning state.

      "This map on any measure of fairness accurately
      reflects the way Texans are voting at the polls right
      now," he said.

      The Supreme Court had put the Texas cases on the fast
      track, scheduling an unusually long two-hour afternoon
      session.

      The subject matter was extremely technical, and near
      the end of the argument Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
      dozed in her chair. Justices David Souter and
      Samuel Alito, who flank the 72-year-old, looked at her
      but did not give her a nudge.

      The court has struggled in the past to define how much
      politics is acceptable when states draw new boundaries
      to reflect population shifts.

      "The only reason it was considered, let alone passed,
      was to help one political party get more seats than
      another," the justices were told by Paul M. Smith, a
      Washington lawyer who represents several groups
      challenging the plan.

      "That's a surprise," Justice Antonin Scalia joked.
      "Legislatures redraw the map all the time for
      political reasons."

      Chief Justice John Roberts also aggressively
      challenged critics of the boundaries to explain what
      was wrong with Republican lawmakers drawing districts
      that benefit Republicans.

      Nina Perales, representing a Hispanic civil rights
      group, said that "race was used gratuitously and
      cynically" by Republicans, who split up Hispanic
      neighborhoods to dilute their voting strength.

      Kennedy said the result was an odd-looking map that
      mixed voters of very different backgrounds.

      Two years ago, justices split 5-4, in leaving a narrow
      opening for challenges claiming party politics overly
      influenced election maps. Kennedy was the key swing
      voter in that case.

      Six Hispanics and three blacks represent Texas in the
      House of Representatives — an increase of one more
      black congressman from before the 2003 map was put in
      place.

      The arguments come just a week before Texans vote in
      the primaries. Should the justices rule the map
      unconstitutional, they could throw out the map and
      force new primaries.

      The cases are League of United Latin American Citizens
      v. Perry, 05-204; Travis County v. Perry, 05-254;
      Jackson v. Perry, 05-276; GI Forum of Texas v. Perry,
      05-439.

      ___

      Associated Press Writers Suzanne Gamboa and Elizabeth
      White contributed to this report.

      On the Net:

      Supreme Court: http://www.supremecourtus.gov/
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