Ruling favors Latino voters in Texas Democrat suit

By PAUL J. WEBER, Associated Press Writer – Tue Aug 25

SAN ANTONIO – Latino voters celebrated a federal court ruling Tuesday that came down against the Texas Democratic Party and could put the complicated “Texas Two-step” presidential delegate system in jeopardy.

The ruling by a three-judge panel will allow the lawsuit to go forward and put the Texas delegate system closer to facing a potential review by the Justice Department, which Latino advocates sought in the aftermath of last year’s intense Democratic primary between … Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In a lawsuit filed last year, the Latino groups argued that the way Texas Democrats awarded presidential delegates unfairly discriminated against Latinos by awarding fewer presidential delegates to heavily Hispanic areas. They did not contest to whom the delegates were awarded, but rather how the allotment was made.

Latino advocates saw Tuesday’s ruling as clearing the way for the party’s complex process of awarding delegates through a primary and caucus to be done away with entirely.

“The whole state of Texas should be celebrating with us,” said Luis Roberto Vera Jr., an attorney for the League of United Latin American Citizens. “That was the biggest, most chaotic, moronic thing when they went through that Texas two-step.”

The Texas Democratic Party said it was reviewing the court’s decision and emphasized that the panel in San Antonio did not find its delegate allocation plan discriminatory.

“The Texas Democratic Party fully supports all aspects of the Voting Rights Act and works diligently to ensure the participation of all Texans in the electoral process,” the party said in a statement.

The ruling stopped short of requiring the Texas Democratic Party to seek federal pre-clearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires all or parts of 16 mainly southern states to get federal approval before making changes in the way elections are conducted.

The panel did, however, urge the party to take that step voluntarily.

“Indeed, political expediency and the TDP’s stated support for Section 5 might counsel it now to seek pre-clearance of its delegate allocation rules instead of proceeding further in this litigation,” the court said.

Nearly all the delegates in the Texas system are apportioned based on Democratic voter turnout numbers in previous elections in state senate districts. For Latino districts, that meant low turnout in a 2006 gubernatorial election resulted in fewer presidential delegates in the 2008 primary and caucuses.

Among the judges on the panel was U.S. District Judge Fred Biery, who dismissed the suit last year after ruling the spirit and intent of the federal Voting Rights Act was not violated. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans kicked the case back to a thee-judge panel in February.

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