Ethically Corrupt And Unashamed
Express-News Editorial Board: August 12, 2013

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We know many will tell us to just grow up. And, still, the gall is something to behold.

 

“In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party's electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats,” writes the office of Attorney General Greg Abbott. “It is perfectly constitutional for a Republican-controlled legislature to make partisan redistricting decisions, even if there are incidental effects on minority voters who support Democratic candidates.”

 

This is in a response filed by the state in the redistricting case now before a panel of three federal judges in San Antonio. What is supposed to be a defense of the state Legislature reads more like an indictment of the redistricting process.

 

Put aside for the moment what Abbott considers “incidental effects.” Texas minorities have contributed about 90 percent of the state's growth, but the maps do not reflect that.

 

What's most galling here is how unabashedly unashamed is the state's top lawyer in detailing the partisan aspect of a process that should not be as substantively so. It is written matter-of-factly, as if the public must just numbly accept it.

 

“Perfectly constitutional” can cover a variety of sins, but here the meaning is clear; legislators keep themselves in power because they can. And if values such as fairness, compactness, competitiveness and communities of interest (when this isn't code for “safe districts”) get included, that's purely coincidental.

 

The fact that Democrats were just as unabashedly partisan in recent memory is a sorry excuse. It is, however, reason to take redistricting out of legislators' hands altogether.

 

It gets worse.

 

“The district of Congressman Lloyd Doggett — the only white Democrat in the Texas congressional delegation elected in a majority-white district — was completely dismantled in an attempt to drive him from office,” Abbott's office wrote, the emphasis his.

 

Or this bit of honesty:

 

“The district of state Senator Wendy Davis — another white Democrat — was also altered significantly in an effort to unseat her.”

And the claim that these two “were treated worse (the document's emphasis) than the black incumbent members of Congress” is offered as proof that there was no discrimination afoot.

 

A bill authored by U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal, D-Calif., would require all congressional districts be crafted by independent commissions.

 

And there was a homegrown version in the last regular session of the Texas Legislature. Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, introduced legislation that would let Texans vote on a constitutional amendment creating a seven-member redistricting commission.

 

It wasn't approved and it will not surprise us if the proposal in the U.S. House isn't either. The attorney general's response in the redistricting case makes it clear why.

 

Constitutional? Yuck, but we guess. We are entirely certain, however, that it is also ethically corrupt.