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Texas redistricting plan smells DeLay, Bush went around federal law for sake of Republican gains in House

There's more evidence of the kind of man Thomas D. DeLay is, and the kind of administration President Bush runs. A recently released Justice Department memo showed that agency staffers unanimously objected to a Texas redistricting plan on the grounds that it would dilute minority voting rights.

But the former House majority leader wanted the new districts as a way to propel more Republicans into the House of Representatives, and so did the White House. Senior Bush appointees at Justice overruled the staffers and approved the plan. It worked. Before it was implemented, in time for the 2004 elections, Republicans held 15 of Texas' 32 House seats. After, they held 22 seats.

Because of its history of discrimination against minority voters, Texas is required by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to get Justice Department approval for all voting changes. A three-judge federal panel upheld the redistricting plan, but it has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which announced Monday it expects to hear arguments in March.

However the court rules, the intentions of DeLay and the Bush administration seem clear. In cases where the decision is close, Justice staffers usually include "counterpoints" to their conclusions. No such findings were included in the 73-page memo on this decision. Process matters. So do consequences. And so does character. DeLay and Bush showed theirs in their bare-knuckle determination to ignore a fair, thoughtful process to gain the political results they wanted. This was an end run around the law, around fairness and around decency. The Supreme Court should make that official.

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