House Redistricting Chairman David Lewis says it’s “nice to be vindicated” by last night’s announcement that the US Justice Department does not believe the GOP’s new voting maps violate federal minority voting rights laws.
The DOJ approved the maps despite a software glitch that left out thousands of census blocks, affecting nearly half of all House and Senate districts and 2 of the state’s 13 Congressional districts.
Lewis says the approval came because the errors caused by the glitch were in the legislation itself, not in the maps and data DOJ lawyers were reviewing. He said they were given correct and complete maps and corresponding census data.
“We started with maps,” Lewis explained. “All the information that was submitted to Justice, all the information that was debated, was based on that map, that picture. When we transposed from the picture into words, some of the words got left off the page. That’s all that happened.”
”No voters were left out, no demographic information was incorrect,” he added.
Lewis says the fix is simple: a technical corrections bill will reinsert the left-out census blocks in the original bill. “We’re gonna have to pass another bill that puts those words back on the page. That’s all it is.”
When news of the glitch broke Tuesday, Democrats were quick to accuse GOP mapmakers of ineptitude and incompetence. Lewis says that’s just politics. “I’ve looked back, and we’ve had to pass a technical corrections bill on all the major redistricting bills that we’ve done in the past. What you had yesterday was folks who were opposed to the plan trying to make a mountain out of a molehill.”
Lewis said lawmakers could make the changes next week, or when they reconvene again at the end of this month. “It will definitely be before the 2012 filing cycle.”
He wasn’t surprised to hear that lawsuits against the maps are expected from Democrats and civil rights groups.
“We were threatened that lawsuits would come before we ever even presented the final plan,” he said.
“We know that opposition parties will tie up the districts in court. That’s their right. We respect their right to do that,” said Lewis. “But we did follow the letter the intent and the spirit of the law, and as such I don’t think those challenges are going to prevail. I certainly don’t think they’ll prevail on the 2012 election cycle.”