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Do you remember the name of the lawyer who advised the Texas House and Senate when they wrote the 2011 voter ID bill? That’s the law a federal judge in Corpus Christi found to be intentionally discriminatory on the basis of race. An appeals court told her to throw out a particular argument without retrying the case and come to a fresh conclusion. She did, and she came to the same conclusion: intentional racial discrimination.

The Texas House and the Texas Senate went to work, choosing their voters and assuring their power as only gaggles of politicians can, hooking and curving the lines to ruin competitors and challengers and enemies, to boost and reinforce incumbents — themselves — and to help their side and screw the people on the other side.

Do you remember the name of the lawyer who advised the House and the Senate — and don't forget the governor at the time, Rick Perry — on congressional and legislative redistricting after the 2010 census, counseling them as they drew lines to maximize their Republican advantage? The legal expert who would have said “too much” if he had thought his clients might’ve stepped in a legal cow patty? They stepped in it just the same: A federal panel ruled lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minority voters.

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The state has stacked up a run of losses that could throw it back under federal supervision — forcing the great state of Texas to tuck tail and ask the federal government for permission for every change it makes to its voting and election laws. This state and many others used to discriminate habitually and creatively — so much so that federal law included Texas in the list of states that couldn't be trusted to take care of their own citizens with fair laws and fair districts that would have allowed them to take part in the great democratic franchise, to choose the people who represent them.

Remember that lawyer's name?

It wasn’t Ken Paxton, the current Texas attorney general. At the time, he was one of the legislators writing the laws and drawing the maps. And while Paxton’s office has the job of defending Texas in court, he inherited this pile of litigation when he took office in January 2015.

The state’s lawyer wasn’t solely or even primarily to blame. Lawmakers drew the maps and took the votes. But they also decided to ignore what other states had done, passing laws that were blessed at the end of hotly contested litigation by courts that were frankly looking for ways to give longer leashes to historically wayward states. Their lawyer and his team told them to go for it, even after election law aficionados warned that the state could be subject to challenges that its laws were more likely to shut out Texans of color from taking part in their democracy. Even after those aficionados said that adding just a few more forms of identification could save Texas a world of legal trouble.

The lawyer told them they could draw maps for congressional and legislative districts that shut out Texans of color — not because they were Texans of color but because they were likely to vote for Democrats. That it was legal to maximize Republican voting strength even if that meant minimizing minority voting strength because it wasn’t being done on the basis of race but on the basis of party. That discrimination on the basis of politics isn't illegal. It's politics.

The Texas House and the Texas Senate went to work, choosing their voters and assuring their power as only gaggles of politicians can, hooking and curving the lines to ruin competitors and challengers and enemies, to boost and reinforce incumbents — themselves — and to help their side and screw the people on the other side.

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They were acting politically. It's distasteful, but normal. Dogs behave like dogs, snakes like snakes and politicians like politicians. What would you expect?

But politicians in these situations are also cautious, making sure that their efforts — the close, exacting work of political cartography and the tricky work of letting one group into the polls while keeping another other group out — will not be undone by the courts. They look to their lawyers. And in the cases of the voter ID law and the redistricting maps, the legal blessings were administered by a former judge who worked both in trial and appellate courts — a star.

But over the course of the past two months, the courts have ruled that Texas lawmakers ran afoul of the Constitution and federal voting laws — so much so that they might be forced once again to play the "Mother, may I?" pre-clearance game with the federal government in Washington every time they want to change the voting and election laws of Texas.

Paxton has said he will appeal both rulings. The lawyer who preceded him, who set these wheels in motion, hasn’t said anything and his aides turned down the opportunity to do so last week.

You know that lawyer’s name. He was the longest-serving attorney general in the history of the state of Texas.

And now he's your governor.

More columns from Ross Ramsey:

  • If you're in favor, Texas lawmakers will meet with you and put your legislation on the fast track. Others have to wait, sometimes for weeks, for a chance to talk for a few minutes in a committee hearing room in the middle of the night. 
  • Lawmakers get uncomfortable when their voters and their business supporters are out of sync. And the "bathroom bill" isn't the only legislation where there's daylight between those groups. 
  • The Texas Legislature's Easter break ends with a sprint. Only six weeks remain between now and the end of this regular legislative session — and most of the 6,000+ bills under consideration are going to die.

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