Texas redistricting an issue again: Legislative tug of war over votes is a legacy

Cal Jillson, political science professor at SMU's Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, talks about Texas' less-than-glowing history of redistricting.

By Marty Schladen

AUSTIN -- Texas again finds itself before several courts -- and holding a special legislative session -- because it keeps drawing boundary lines for congressional and legislative districts that discriminate against blacks and Hispanics.

Since President Lyndon Johnson passed the Voting Rights Act in 1965, his home state has had as much difficulty as any other complying with the law's requirement that minorities be given equal access to the political process.

"We're right up there with Mississippi, South Carolina and Georgia," said Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Under Democrats and Republicans, the Legislature has tried to water down minority votes, and in both cases it has cost cities like El Paso, which is 82 percent Hispanic.

The state's latest attempt to redraw district boundaries is mired in a bewildering morass of political and legal fights -- some of which involve El Paso County districts. What the discrimination means to El Paso voters is that issues of particular importance to the Hispanic community -- such as making Medicaid available to the working poor and spending more on public education -- don't get their due in the Legislature, Jillson said....