Lee expresses `disappointment' with high court ruling

by Wade Wootton

Daily Cougar Staff

District 18's incumbent, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee criticized a June 13 Supreme Court decision, in which Houston's 18th Congressional District was declared unconstitutional by a vote of 5-4.

The ruling concluded that race was a deciding factor in defining the district's borders and the court ruled that, in accordance with the 14th Amendment, race can't be the predominant factor when drawing a district are being drawn.

Lee had been challenged by an opponent who was upset that the district's confines seemed to favor minorities. This complaint maintained that the 18th District was restructured based on race after the 1990 census.

"When the Supreme Court looked at the 18th District, they saw that the borders were excessive in areas and did not match any logical pattern," said John Brennan, Lee's public relations adviser.

This illogical shape caused the Supreme Court to dissect these boundaries and conclude that race was the major factor in deciding the district's perimeter.

Lee was upset over the ruling and expressed her disapproval of the decision.

"My disappointment in the decision to end Houston's 18th District as we know it runs deep," Lee said.

"I now face the task of going back to my constituents and convincing them that they have not been disenfranchised by this decision," she added. "Right now their votes are in the hands of the Federal District Court."

Ramifications of this decision not only reach into November's elections, but could also retroactively lurch back into the primaries held earlier this year.

Brennan maintains that "this is an unprecedented decision coming right after a primary before an election."

This decision leaves 18th District's earlier primary open to opposition, making it fertile ground for a new primary right before November elections, he said.

The issue is now before a three-judge panel in Houston who will re-draw the district's borders in accordance with the Supreme Court's decision.

Many minority leaders expressed discontent over the decision and felt that its impact affects minorities as a whole. Texas State Sen. Rodney Ellis said, "Without a conscious effort to create minority districts, minority voters will likely lose their voice in the political process."

"The reality is that the diversity of the United States population is not reflected in its elected representatives," he said. "If we don't district in favor of minority voters, we effectively district against them."

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