Hans von Spakovsky has this piece today revealing the inner workings of the Justice Department’s review of redistricting plans. Those who know the most about how the DOJ Voting Section actually works, including me at PJ Tatler, have been urging the 16 states subject to Section 5 to bypass administrative review and go straight to federal court. Von Spakovsky also warns:
The lesson here is that Republican-controlled legislatures that have drawn up redistricting plans that Democrats don’t like would be foolish to submit those plans to the Civil Rights Division for administrative review. Instead, they should go straight to the federal district court in D.C., the alternative procedure set forth in the Voting Rights Act.
States must understand that they cannot expect to get an impartial hearing from this Justice Department. They may still get a panel of liberal judges in federal court, but at least normal evidentiary standards will apply. In court, DOJ will have to provide actual evidence of discrimination — not the rank hearsay and imaginary evidence often considered in its own administrative review. Moreover, states will be able to cross-examine their accusers in court. That doesn’t happen in the administrative setting. Indeed, the Justice Department often refuses to even tell states who has accused them of discrimination in their redistricting process.
Justice also almost never shares its actual internal analysis with a submitting jurisdiction, leaving states completely in the dark about the real reasons for an objection. But it would have to produce that analysis in a courtroom. A DOJ lawyer told me that states often think it will be cheaper to go the DOJ administrative-clearance route instead of going straight to federal court. But, that lawyer said, once the Justice Department objects, “the jurisdiction better be prepared to spend lots of money and expect long delays before they may be able to put their chosen plan into effect.”
Are the Attorneys General and legislators of Texas, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, South Dakota, Louisiana, California, New Hampshire Arizona and Michigan and Mississippi listening?