Redistricting fight: Testimony ends on County Precinct discrimination

HOUSTON – The addition of Crosby and parts of the southern portion of Huffman ISD to Harris County Precinct 2 did not leave a distinctive enough advantage to elect a Hispanic to Harris County Commissioner’s Court according to a law suit that wrapped up testimony on Nov. 16.

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore made the interum Commissioner’s map and busted the county up into four County Precincts of about a million residents each.

The redistricting map adopted last year by the state legislature for Harris County Commissioner Precincts is now being alleged to weaken Hispanic voting power in Precinct 2 and therefore is illegal according to the Voter’s Rights Act, according to a suit filed by James Rodriguez (Houston City Councilman) and Ed Gonzales. They are being represented by Chad Dunn, the general council for the Democratic Party. George W. Bush resigned the Voter’s Rights Act during his second year in office as President, it is known to be the most lawsuit based law ever enacted.

Redistricting based on the 2010 Census was to make many changes to the local legislative representation costing Crosby U.S. Congressman Ted Poe, R.02, and Dan Huberty, House District #127, beginning this January. But the suit concerns the County Precinct that was lost by Democrat Sylvia Garcia to Jack Morman in 2010 by a 51% to 48% vote. She was the first Hispanic on the Commissioner’s Court. Sylvia Garcia has testified and helped organize opposition to the County’s map.

The same Precinct voted for Adrian Garcia over Louis Guthrie by 54.1% or 17,000 votes in 2012. The change of adding the new areas in Crosby and Huffman gave a 1% more conservative change to the voting population. The new interum map used during the 2012 elections was cited to be a 40.4% Hispanic population of voters.

Precinct 2 was to absorb all of the east of Houston while the 2010 Census showed the North and West portions of the county growing businesses, wealth and populations. Precinct 2 was being dubbed a Hispanic Opportunity District. The plaintiffs in the suit want Precinct 2 to be declared a “protected minority opportunity district” related to the Voter’s Rights Act.

The plaintiff’s must prove that their contest of the ruling and the legislation was not based just on political party but then the plaintiff’s had Matt Barreto of the University of Washington flown in to testify that it was impossible to “disentangle” race from party affiliation in the South.

Sylvia Garcia took the stand on Nov. 15, saying “I think discrimination still exists. It just may be more subtle, it’s more creative, more clever, but it is there.” She would add that local and State governments dissuage Latinos from participating in the political process.

The plantiffs have to prove discrimination was done to be awarded “protected minority-opportunity district.”

The interim map of Harris County Precincts was drawn by Judge Vanessa Gilmore so that the elections could continue.

Chad Dunn grilled Dave Walden of Precinct 2 why Walden requested information on prevalence of straight ticket voting, ethnic make-up and voter turnout in various voting precincts within the County Precinct 2.

Some Houston residents may get a chance to vote for Sylvia Garcia in the Special Election S.D. 6 to be called in the next two months, before she can re-challenge Morman for Precinct 2 in his reelection bid in 2014.