Drawn Out of a District in Texas

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Michele Norris talks with Ciro Rodriquez, who was a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives before the Texas redistricting took effect. Rodriquez says he lost his seat because of the new map spearheaded by former House Majority leader Tom DeLay.


One of the key districts cited by the Court was the 28th District, running essentially from San Antonio south to Laredo, on the Mexican border. Ciro Rodriguez, a Democrat from San Antonio, held that district until the map was redrawn. He lost his seat, he says, to a more conservative Democrat because the new map added more voters from the Loredo area. And he says the new map also strengthened the neighboring district of Republican Henry Bonilla. I asked Ciro Rodriguez about his reaction to today's ruling.

Mr. CIRO RODRIGUEZ (Former Congressman, Democrat, Texas): I am pleased that the Supreme Court at least issued the ruling and was hoping that they would throw out the entire Delay plan. But they did come up with a ruling that basically zeros in on Webb County, that was Laredo, that was cut up in half.

One part of it went to the 28th Congressional, the other to the 23rd, and so the Court's basically indicated that the 23rd, which is now Congressman Bonilla's district, was brought down in terms of the number of Latinos and that it violated the Voting Rights Act.

And so we're hoping that they move quickly on this and come up with some additional maps, but what it does mean is that Webb County and Laredo should be left intact and we're hoping that that will occur.

NORRIS: Just quickly remind us, what happened in your election after these maps were redrawn?

Mr. RODRIGUEZ: Well, I had an election which I lost and it basically pitted one community against another, San Antonio and Laredo, in the primary. And now, if this is redrawn, and it looks like the 28th would become very similar to what there was before, then I would definitely be running again. If not, then I won't.

NORRIS: Now on a different matter, the Court also ruled that state legislators could draw new maps as often as they liked, not just once every ten years as is currently the law. It's seems like that would create the potential for future abuse. I mean the maps could change every time the legislature changed.

Mr. RODRIQUEZ: And that's unfortunate because my understanding was that the Constitution says that you draw the lines every ten years mainly because of the census.

NORRIS: Beyond Texas, what's the larger message do you think here for the rest of the country with this ruling?

Mr. RODRIQUEZ: Well the larger message I would hope that, you know, that we don't do this, you know, redraw the lines when you take control and especially when the previous map had been approved by the courts, and that you got to look closely.

This particular decision basically says that you, you know, if you have a minority district that you don't cut back on the number of Latinos in that district and that's what they've done here and that's why it's violated the Voting Rights Act.

And if the legislature decides to do it again, Texas maps have always gone back to the courts, so I would presume that if they redraw it we might go back to the courts again. And because they've never done the right thing, we've always had to go to court, at least in the last three decades that I know of.

NORRIS: Mr. Rodriquez thanks so much for talking to us.

Mr. RODRIQUEZ: Thank you very much.

NORRIS: Ciro Rodriquez. He was a former Democratic member of the House of Representatives.

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