By MICHELLE ROBERTS - Associated Press Writer - May 9, 2008
Article Launched: 05/09/2008 02:04:36 PM MDT
SAN ANTONIO—The Texas Democratic Party was sued Friday by Latino advocacy groups that contend the complicated primary and caucus system used in the March 4 presidential primary unfairly diluted Latino votes.
The League of United Latin American Citizens of Texas and the Mexican American Bar Association of Houston sued in federal court, arguing the party failed to seek clearance required by the U.S. Justice Department for the so-called "Texas Two Step." The groups also argue the system effectively discriminates against Latino voters by giving them fewer delegates.
Texas Democrats distribute the state's 193 delegates using both a primary election and a caucus, but the distribution favors state Senate districts that had high voter turnout in the last presidential and gubernatorial elections.
In the March 4 election, that meant predominantly Hispanic districts, where turnout was low in 2004 and 2006, got fewer delegates than others, particularly urban, predominantly black districts. Latino districts favored Hillary Clinton; black districts favored Barack Obama.
"The manner used to allocate the delegates ... undervalues Latino Democratic voters and does not provide Latino voters with an equal opportunity to participate in the nominating process and to elect candidates of their choice," the lawsuit says.
Obama and Clinton remained locked in a pitched battle over delegates to secure the nomination.
Clinton won more delegates in the primary, though Obama is expected to end up with more delegates when caucus numbers are settled in June.
LULAC is not seeking to stop Texas delegates from being seated at the Democratic convention, however.
"This is not a lawsuit about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama," said LULAC attorney Jose Garza. "We think this has an adverse effect on the Latino community, and it seems to us that it's a fairly simple fix."
LULAC wants the delegates reallocated to give Latino-majority areas a stronger voice, and he said several methods could achieve that.
Because of the close election and the proportional distribution of delegates, any change in the total number going to each candidate is likely to be relatively incremental, Garza said.
State Democratic Party spokesman Hector Nieto the primary election system was not submitted to the DOJ for clearance but that the party was only required to get approval from its state convention attendees and the Democratic National Committee.
He had not seen the lawsuit Friday afternoon and declined to comment on specifics. But he noted that any Democrat is free to offer resolutions to change the operation.
"At any point in time, any Democrat can offer to make changes to that plan, and those changes happen at our state convention," he said.
Several resolutions related to the presidential primary system have been submitted for the convention on June 6-7 in Austin.
Read more in the El Paso Times