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Raymond says he will file complaint

By Rebecca Cole,

Austin, TX – Rep. Richard Raymond (D-Laredo) held a press conference today to announce that he is filing a formal complaint with the United States Department of Justice detailing voting rights and civil rights violations under the Minority Language Requirements of the Voting Rights Act. Regarding the complaint and the press conference itself, Raymond said, "When I was first elected, I couldn't imagine a day like this would come." He reiterated this by saying that he would, "rather not be standing here."

As a member of the Texas House Redistricting Committee, Raymond alleges that he and other members repeatedly faced discriminatory treatment by the Committee Chair, Rep. Joe Crabb (R- Atascocita). Raymond alleges that the manner in which the redistricting bill was drafted and the redistricting hearings were held violated his civil rights and the civil rights of his constituents.

First, he alleges public hearings were not held around the state or in areas with large concentrations of non-English speaking Texans, as in past redistricting cycles. Secondly, he alleges that public redistricting committee notices were not published in Spanish so that non-English speaking interests could be expressed.

Raymond quoted the Houston Chronicle April 23 edition writing that when Raymond requested that field hearings be held around the state, House Redistricting Chair Representative Joe Crabb said, "Mr. Raymond, there are only two people that I know of on the committee that speak Spanish. The rest of us would have a very difficult time if we were out in an area other than Austin or other English-speaking areas to be able to have committee hearings or to be able to converse with people that did not speak English."

Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act specifically says that, "whenever any state or political subdivision provides registration or...other materials of information relating to the electoral process, including ballots, it shall provide them in the language of the applicable minority group as well as in the English language."

Hearings were held in Austin at the state capitol with little public notice (in English only) and frequently changing times, according to Raymond.

During the press conference, Raymond alleged how he and other members had been treated during the House Redistricting Committee meetings. He alleged that he was often not recognized by the chairman to speak or make a parliamentary inquiry. One of his African-American colleagues reportedly left the committee in tears. Raymond further alleged that his authority as a state representative immediately changed as soon as he walked into the room.

The House Redistricting Committee was appointed on January 2003 and did not meet until April. The committee reported the Congressional redistricting bill to the full House on May 6, 2003. Raymond said he is waiting for a response from the Voting Section of the DOJ regarding the alleged violations.