Special Session
3:01 pm
Wed June 12, 2013

Austin Democrat Talks Crossover Districts In Redistricting Debate

Following several out-of-town hearings on the subject of redistricting, the Senate committee is back in Austin hearing various plans for changing the state’s voting maps, which included a plan from Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, who said he borrowed his argument from Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.

"It concludes by saying -- in essence -- that while the Voting Rights Act may not require the creation of a crossover district, the purposeful dismantling of a crossover district would raise serious questions under the 14th and 15th Amendments of the Constitution," Watson said.

An official website of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund defines a crossover district as:

A crossover district is one in which minorities do not form a numerical majority but still reliably control the outcome of the election with some non-minority voters crossing over to vote with the minority group.

What that would do in the case of Sen. Watson’s amendment is re-establish Congressman Lloyd Doggett’s old voting district.

Sen. Kel Seleger, R-Amarillo, who is the chairman of the Senate committee, disagrees with Watson’s assessment of constitutionality.

"We talked about constitutional concerns, constitutional concerns are not law. Constitutional decisions are law," Seleger said.

Watson said that his amendment would restore Doggett's crossover district, where he said there is a constitutional flaw in the interim map.

"It would restore that crossover district in Travis County and allow for a district to be anchored in Travis County while at the same meeting the requirements of the voting rights act by creating the same number of Latino districts in Central and South Texas," Watson said.

Watson pulled his amendment because he doesn’t have the votes at this time, but hopes to re-introduce the change in legislation before the Senate votes on all four redistricting bills, which is expected to happen this Friday.

One thing both sides of the Senate agree on, the voting maps of Texas will most likely be decided by the federal court.