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Perez v. Perry: The Witnesses, or Programs, Programs, Getcher Programs! You Can’t Tell the Players Without Yer Programs!
In the spring of 2011, a number of plaintiffs filed lawsuits against the State of Texas, challenging the implementation of a hastily-completed legislative redistricting plan. For the sake of judicial economy, these suits were consolidated together into one rather complicated lawsuit. At least, Perez et al. v. Perry is complicated procedurally by the large number of plaintiffs, the sometimes numbing technical details of geographic boundary line definitions and census data, and the statistical projections of voter turnout and projected voting patterns.
Complication and redistricting litigation go hand-in-hand, for a number of reasons. Each of the plaintiffs have specific, sometimes divergent demands regarding the shape and composition of particular districts, and each of the attorneys involved in the case have their own views regarding the best tactical choices and approaches.
Take a quick look at the Moritz College of Law repository containing the bulk of the pleadings filed in the case so far. http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/electionlaw/litigation/PerezVTexas.php
Impressive, isn’t it?
Luckily for the casual observer, while the parties are numerous and the fights over discovery and disclosure of relevant evidence are varied, the key witnesses and the important players in the redistricting process at issue are pretty easy to keep straight. For starters, here’s the list of witnesses expected to be called by the Department of Justice for Phase II of the trial (representing the United States, an intervening party in the suit).
That’s not so bad. Six witnesses for sure, plus a slightly larger number of “maybes.” Because this case is three years old, and because all the principal parties have been deposed and have testified before, a lot of actual testifying is already done and in the can. That’s why, when you look at the deposition excerpts that the United States wants to read into the record, it’s a lot longer.
The following document is the U.S. declaring which parts of which depositions it would like in the record. Of course, the defendant will object to some of these, or will offer other parts of the same depositions in an effort to provide context for the quotes being used by the plaintiff.
Okay, so that’s a little intimidating, but at least the gist of that material can be summarized in a fairly straightforward way.
What sort of testimony will the plaintiffs want to elicit from their witnesses? For a clue, we can look to the prior trial transcripts and the depositions filed in the case.
First, there are the plaintiff’s experts:
Dr. Arrington will generally testify that the Texas Legislature engaged in a deliberate and sometimes brazen practice of reducing Hispanic voting strength. Although he’s likely to discuss several aspects of the redistricting plans, the centerpiece of his testimony is an explanation of how the boundaries of districts were deliberately drawn to ensure the dilution of Hispanic votes in superficially Hispanic areas.
Mr. Fairfax is a demographer, and is likely to be relied on for a description of the dilution of African-American voting blocs in the Congressional districts representing areas of the Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth area, among other topics.
Dr. Murray can be expected to testify about how the contested redistricting plans diluted African-American and Hispanic voting strength generally, with an emphasis on the division of African-American voting blocs among white-dominated voting districts in the Dallas and Houston area.
Similar testimony (with different emphasis on particular parts of the State) will presumably be offered by:
Dr. Robert Brischetto;
Dr. Brischetto will probably focus more on the historical evidence of prior bad intent by the State, as part of arguing that the State acted with discriminatory intent.
Allen J. Lichtman;
Henry Flores, and;
Richard I. Engstrom.
A lot of these witnesses testified in the case referred to as the “Section 5” lawsuit – that was the suit filed by the State of Texas in the Federal District Court in D.C., as an end-run around the Department of Justice. Texas did not do well in that suit, and the D.C. court refused to preclear the bulk of the 2011 redistricting plans.
The expert on the defendant’s side is Dr. John Alford.
Dr. Alford will presumably use recent election data to argue that minority voters in specific counties (based on county election results) are successfully selecting their candidate of choice, notwithstanding their aggregation with non-minority voters in other counties, and that therefore their voting strength would not have been diluted under the 2011 plan.
The above list is by no means a complete list of all the experts who testified in the Section 5 case or in prior hearings relating to Perez v. Perry. Two important witnesses not listed above and not scheduled to testify are Dean Rogelio Saenz and Professor Orville Burton. In particular, Professor Burton issued a report that provided a historical context for the current suit. The report describing specific detailed instances of racial discrimination in Texas after the Civil War and up to the present.
In the next post, I’ll look at the key players – the people who actually drew the controversial maps.