Latino group may challenge new congressional map

Tara Copp

American-Statesman

Aug 8, 2006

Doggett's new district lines might violate Latino rights, LULAC says; any appeal would not affect November's elections.

WASHINGTON — A Latino voting rights group might ask the U.S. Supreme Court to throw out Texas' new congressional map, based on how many Latinos were removed from Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett's Austin-area district.

The map was redrawn Friday by a three-judge federal panel in response to a June Supreme Court ruling that the 2003 map created by the Republican-led Legislature violated Latino voting rights by dividing Laredo between two districts.

The new map fuses Laredo into a single district and shifts other districts around, giving Doggett 200,000 new voters.

Doggett said he was not aware that the League of United Latin American Citizens might appeal the new map.

"My whole focus at the moment is how to serve all the new people in my district," Doggett said. "I would not anticipate that anything LULAC would do would change the lines for the upcoming election."

Luis Vera, an attorney for LULAC, which was a party in the Supreme Court case, said the organization was "happy with a large part" of the judges' changes last week. But LULAC is concerned about the reduction in Latino voters — 44 percent, down from 54 percent — in Doggett's district under the new map.

"That may be a violation. . . . We are looking at it," Vera said. If the group appeals, the case would be pushed directly to the Supreme Court, he said.

LULAC wants Texas to have seven Latino-majority districts, and an appeal would be a way for the organization to keep pushing the issue.

Vera said LULAC's challenge, if it is pursued, would not affect November's elections but would aim to set a better baseline for future redistricting.

"We're going to be doing redistricting again in about four years or less," Vera said. Without continuing to fight for the issue, "we will only have six districts."

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