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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:After the 2000 national Census, Bexar County realigned its voting districts. The plan reduced the number of precincts from five to four. Precinct 5 was eliminated, therefore its justice of the peace and constable position were eliminated. To keep the number of justices of the peace the same, an additional position was added to Precinct 1. Most of Precinct 5′s population was distributed between Precincts 1 and 2. Under both the old and the new plans, there are two majority-Hispanic districts, and one majority-black district. The Department of Justice cleared the plan. A group of plaintiffs, led by the constable whose position was eliminated by the elimination of Precinct 5, challenged the redistricting plan. They said the new plan violated 2 of the Voting Rights Act; although Precinct 2 retains a majority of Hispanic residents, the majority is narrower than it was in the old Precinct 5 and, having been diluted, is barely sufficient to ensure Hispanic electoral success. At trial, the plaintiffs’ expert offered reconstituted election analysis, whereby the results of local, state and national elections are plotted precinct by precinct to speculate on what the likely outcome of future elections under the new redistricting scheme will be. The expert, Dr. Henry Flores, used a method where the total votes cast for each candidate within the boundaries of Precinct 2 � the numerator � was judged against the total ballots cast in that precinct the denominator. The district court found Flores’ method questionable, because it used the total ballots cast, instead of the total votes cast, which means over-votes and under-votes were counted. Consequently, the district court threw out Flores’ testimony, but it also threw out reconstituted election analysis used by the defendant’s expert, Dr. John Alford, even though he had used only the total votes cast in the denominator. Instead, the district court found that a handful of over- or under-ballots on either side made the evidence as a whole unreliable. The district court also found that “special circumstances” in the 2000 and 2002 election cycles made these elections unreliable in evaluating the redistricting plan. Nevertheless, the district court went on to agree with the plaintiffs’ basic argument. Consequently, the district court ordered the 2002 election results set aside; it reinstated the original five-precinct plan; and it ordered Bexar county to fund the eliminated constable’s position. HOLDING:Reversed in part; affirmed in part; vacated in part. First, plaintiffs challenging a redistricting plan must satisfy the preconditions for a 2 claim set forth by the Supreme Court in Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30 (1986). Those preconditions are that: 1. the affected minority group is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a voting age majority in a district; 2. the minority group is politically cohesive; and 3. the majority votes sufficiently as a bloc that it is able � in the absence of special circumstances � usually to defeat the minority group’s preferred candidate. If those preconditions are met, the second step is for the plaintiffs to prove that based on the “totality of the circumstances,” the challenged plan results in the denial of the right to vote based on color or race in violation of 2. The court confirms that the only real dispute is over the third Gingles factor. The court points out that under Flores’ analysis, the candidate preferred by Hispanic voters in what is now Precinct 2 would have “won” in only eight of 13 races. Using the correct methodology, which Flores eventually admitted was the proper calculation, 12 of 13 candidates would have won. The court credits the district court for recognizing Flores’ flawed assessment, the court faults the district court from throwing out both Flores’ and Alford’s testimony. The district court erred in suggesting that the difference between the two expert’s analyses arose from the inclusion of a “handful of ballots.” The court finds the ballots mistakenly included by Flores were “significant and systematic, and produced a substantially flawed analysis.” Throwing out Alford’s analysis, which was not substantially flawed, is “similar to determining that mathematics is a flawed science simply because one expert testifies that two plus two is four and another expert testifies that two plus two is five.” Instead, the district court should have viewed Flores’ errors as simply undermining the weight of his testimony, not that of Alford, which looked at 22 races and found the Hispanic-preferred candidate would have won in 21 of those races. The court also faults the district court for finding that “special circumstances” existed to explain away some minority successes. Specifically, the district court pointed to estimated victories for Tony Sanchez, a Democrat in the 2002 governor’s race, and George W. Bush’s presidential candidacy in 2000. The court finds this clear error. “Moreover, even if”special circumstances’ could be used to explain away all of the minority candidate victories, the evidence fails to provide any basis for such a finding in this case. The district court reasoned that in the 2000 elections, George W. Bush’s candidacy for President likely affected both Hispanic and overall voter turnout, but the court failed to explain what the”special circumstances’ of Bush’s candidacy might have been. . . . Similarly, the district court clearly erred in determining that the presence of Tony Sanchez at the top of the ticket in 2002 was a special circumstance that explained the success of Hispanic candidates in that election cycle. No evidence presented at trial tended to indicate that Hispanic candidates were more likely to succeed as a result of Sanchez’s candidacy.” The court finds that the evidence of overwhelming electoral success for Hispanic-favored candidates over a wide range of offices and in two separate general election cycles, in both presidential and non-presidential election year leads to the “firm and definite conclusion” that the district court clearly erred in finding that Anglos vote as a bloc usually to defeat the Hispanic candidate of choice within new Precinct 2. “Recent voting patterns and trends suggest that Hispanics will continue to enjoy substantial success in electing the candidates they support in [Precinct 2],” the court adds. The court finds no other statistical evidence � namely examination of overall population figures, voting age population by racial group and Spanish surnames � to support the plaintiffs’ contentions. The court finds the evidence does not shed any real light on whether the near-50 percent of Hispanic voters in Precinct 2 is sufficient that they have an opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice. The court makes a “final observation” that Flores admitted on cross-examination both that he agreed with Alford, that in presidential election years, Anglos do not vote as a bloc usually to defeat the Hispanic candidate of choice in Precinct 2, and that it was unclear and uncertain whether Anglos vote as a bloc, in non-presidential election years, usually to defeat the Hispanic candidate of choice within the challenged area. Because the plaintiffs did not meet their burden under Gingles, the court says it doesn’t have to look at the totality of the circumstances, but it does anyway, finding “powerful evidence of nearly proportional representation.” The court concludes by vacating much of the relief granted by the district court. The kind of relief ordered is of the kind usually reserved for only the most extreme cases, and this was not one of them. OPINION:Jones, J.; Jones, Dennis and Pickering, JJ.

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