Texas Redistricting Plan Violates Voting Rights Act, Judges Rule

Mar 14, 2017, 00:35
Texas Redistricting Plan Violates Voting Rights Act, Judges Rule

The court said the 2011 redistricting maps, which carved up Latino areas and limited Latino political strength in south and west Texas, need to be redrawn. It's now up to Texas to decide if it'll appeal the court's decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Several groups sued Texas in 2011 after claiming that congressional districts were drawn unconstitutionally and were meant to harm minority voters.

In a 2-1 ruling, U.S. District Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando L. Garcia noted there was "not just a hostility towards Democrat districts, but a hostility to minority districts, and a willingness to use race for partisan advantage" in the redrawn map.

Garcia and Rodriguez, who were appointed by President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush, respectively, explicitly stated that districts were drawn to "minimize Hispanic electoral opportunity".

The two judges who ruled for the plaintiffs found Republicans repeatedly tried to dilute the political power of Latino voters - either packing them into one specific district, or dividing communities between separate districts, a process called "cracking".

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Only by reading the voluminous lawsuits filed against the state can one appreciate just how creative Texas Republicans had to be to so successfully dilute and suppress the state's minority vote.

Perales explains that not only does the court's decision lay the groundwork for changes to the state's current redistricting plan, but it may also be a step toward Texas being ordered back under federal supervision of its elections, as a remedy for intentional discrimination in its redistricting plan.

Texas can still challenge the decision at the Supreme Court, but the ruling gives Democrats hope that they can compete on a more favorable map in 2018. "All sides concede that - whether it is a good thing or not - Texas has a strong correlation between race and party", Judge Jerry Smith wrote.

"It was obvious, from the start, that the DOJ attorneys viewed state officials and the legislative majority and their staffs as a bunch of backwoods hayseed bigots who bemoan the abolition of the poll tax and pine for the days of literacy tests and lynchings", he wrote. Politically motivated redistricting is legal, but redistricting with an intent to reduce the influence of minority voters - either by "packing" those voters into a district, or "cracking" them among multiple districts - is not. Congressional District 23, represented by Republican Will Hurd of Helotes, extends from San Antonio to El Paso and encompasses most of the Texas-Mexico border.

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