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When the Supreme Court takes on a key part of a voting rights law later this month, Texas Democrats will be watching more closely than anyone on Capitol Hill.
The high court’s ruling could affect whether, and how, the congressional boundaries in the state will be revised — yet again.
In the coming days, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Republicans in the state Legislature are set to pass into law the interim map used last cycle. In 2012, a federal court in San Antonio ordered officials to use this interim map because the one that state lawmakers originally drew failed to pass muster with federal officials.
But in the next few weeks, the Supreme Court may decide whether that kind of approval is even necessary. The justices are expected to rule on Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act — a provision that forces certain states with a history of discrimination, including Texas, to seek federal approval for any changes to its voting laws, including the maps.
The case mean Texas Democrats face uncertainty again over their district boundaries.
“There are certain things in life you can’t control, and one of them is what the Supreme Court is going to do,” said former Rep. Martin Frost, a Texas Democrat and redistricting expert. “You just have to wait and see.”
The most contentious parts of the Texas map are places that have experienced explosive minority growth over the past decade. They include Rep. Lloyd Doggett’s 35th District south of Austin, freshman Rep. Pete Gallego’s 23rd District in west Texas and freshman Rep. Marc Veasey’s 33rd District in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex.
Veasey, who is from Fort Worth, represents a safe Democratic seat. But he could face a major challenge if the current lines stick. His primary foe from 2012, former state Rep. Domingo Garcia, told CQ Roll Call earlier this month that he’s “seriously looking at a rematch.”
The 33rd is a majority-minority district, where blacks and Hispanics together make up more than half of the voting-age population. Garcia counts as his base Hispanics in Dallas.
In 2012, Veasey defeated Garcia in the primary runoff by just 1,113 votes, with the support of Fort Worth-based black voters. But Democrats believe they could avoid a rematch under a revised map. For this reason, both Democrats were hesitant to discuss the race.
In an interview, Veasey avoided discussing Garcia altogether. And Garcia cautioned that any campaign planning is in limbo as he and other Texas Democrats await the state’s redistricting map resolution.