Asian American Groups Urge Supreme Court to Uphold Minority Voting Rights in Texas Redistricting Case
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), together with pro bono counsel Kaye Scholer LLP, filed an amicus brief in Perry v. Perez on behalf of the Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) Greater Houston Chapter urging the U.S. Supreme Court to affirm a Texas district court’s interim redistricting plan after the Department of Justice (DOJ) contended that the Texas state legislature’s plan diluted the voting power of Asian Americans and other people of color.
Texas has the third largest Asian American community in the country, after New York and California. Between 2000 and 2010, the Asian American population in the state grew 71.5% to 1.1 million. “Despite these changing demographics, the Texas state legislature intentionally drafted a redistricting plan, PlanH283, that reduces Asian American political representation,” said Glenn D. Magpantay, Director of AALDEF’s Democracy Program.
Under the Voting Rights Act, states with a history of discrimination, including Texas, must have their redistricting plans precleared by either the DOJ or the D.C. District Court for any intent or effect of diluting the minority vote. After PlanH283 was denied preclearance, a Texas district court ordered an interim plan, which largely retains the current district configurations, to prevent delay of the 2012 election cycle in Texas. In response, the State of Texas petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to allow its original PlanH283 to go forward.
AALDEF’s amicus brief in Perry v. Perez contends that the district court’s intervention was necessary because of significant evidence that the state legislature’s PlanH283 discriminates against Asian Americans, including:
Vietnamese American representative Hubert Vo’s district was merged with another district represented by Scott Hochberg. The House Redistricting Committee told Hochberg it intended to give him an advantage over Vo. The Asian American, Latino, and African American bloc of voters who have elected Vo since 2004 was dispersed.
PlanH283 greatly reduced the Asian American population in District 26 – where it is highest in the state – while doing nothing to offset the loss to Asian American representation. The district court noted this reconfiguration made District 26 “irregularly shaped” and “may have been an attempt by the State to intentionally dismantle an emerging minority district.”
Representative Beverly Woolley, who led the redistricting process in Harris County that led to PlanH283, excluded minority representatives from the process. She told them, “You all are protected by the Voting Rights Act and we are not. We don’t want to lose these people due to population growth in the county, or we won’t have any districts left.”
“Because the state legislature’s redistricting plan violates the Voting Rights Act, it was necessary for the district court to intervene and draw a new redistricting plan,” said Magpantay “Otherwise we would be sending a message that marginalizing the growing population of Asian American voters is an acceptable practice.”
OCA Interim Executive Director Tom Hayashi said, “OCA as a national Pan Asian advocacy organization with strong local presence in Texas is extremely concerned that the Texas redistricting plan will critically undermine the voting rights of the state’s large and growing communities of color, including a significant Asian American constituency that elected the first and only Vietnamese American state legislator, Hubert Vo. We applaud the efforts of AALDEF in representing the community vis-a-vis the brief filed on behalf of OCA Houston.”