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Texas fears partisanship in Obama's DOJ could affect redistricting

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January 28, 2011

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By Jimmy Ardis

AUSTIN, Texas: Redistricting has always been a politically contentious process in Texas and the 2011 cycle doesn't appear to be breaking any traditions. Republican Senator Jeff Wentworth recently expressed pessimism when asked how he thought this year's redistricting would go. Wentworth noted that the stated goal of the congressional delegation "is for all the Republican and Democratic congressmen in the Texas delegation to come up with a map they can all agree on, that would protect every incumbent congressman regardless of party, and then divide the four new districts 2-2," says Sen. Wentworth. "Whether or not that actually happens remains to be seen. If it does, it will be the first time."[1]

Texas is among the states that must submit their redistricting plans to the federal government for approval under the auspices of the Voting Rights Act.[2] The standard route for obtaining federal approval is for states to submit their plans to the Voting Rights Division of the Department of Justice; this is the route Texas has taken in the past. But Senator Wentworth noted that Texas will probably not submit their redistricting plans to the Justice Department for preclearance this year, citing the partisanship of the Obama administration's DOJ as reason.[1] Instead, Texas may use the alternate method of going directly to the courts and having their redistricting plans reviewed by a three-judge federal court in DC.

"I don't believe it would be in Texas' interest to even go the route of trying to get precleared by the Department of Justice," explained Senator Wentworth.[1] Speaking on the DOJ's Voting Rights Division he added "They're not only Democrats, they're partisan Democrats. Before, you had a professional, career Voting Rights division [staff] at the Department of Justice. Now, you have a partisan Democratic Voting Rights division. Many of us, including me, are convinced that there's not a map that we can draw that they would approve, so it's a waste of time and money."[1]

However the formalities of the process end up playing out, Wentworth's expectations of civility and fairness are low. "It's pretty certain it will be another mess." "Neither party handles this well."[1]

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