A federal court just ruled that two of Texas’ congressional districts violated the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act because they diluted the voting power of minorities. The districts are now invalidated.
This 107-page ruling is a part of a long running legal battle by a three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas. They found that District 27, which includes Corpus Christi, had been drawn to deny voters in a heavily Hispanic country “their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice.” They concluded that race had been the primary factor in drawing District 35, a strip that stretches from San Antonio to Austin.
The judges upheld the validity of other districts that had been challenged including Houston and the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
In their ruling, they charged that state officials had adopted the questionable map in 2013 as a deliberate strategy to maintain “discrimination or unconstitutional effects” while preventing voters from challenging those effects. Texas legislators must begin a redistricting process, or the court will hold another hearing on September 5th.
The Texas attorney general, Ken Paxton, has said that his office will ask the United States Supreme Court to hear the case.
This ruling is the latest in a six-year long dispute that started in the 2010 census. The redrawing of the districts that happened in 2011 never went into effect because of the dispute.
Brent Wilkes, chief executive of the League of United Latin American Citizens, one of the plaintiffs, said he considered the ruling “on balance a victory for us.”
“It backs up what we’ve been saying, that the Texas Legislature intentionally diminished the rights of Latino voters in particular to elect the candidates of their choice,” Mr. Wilkes said. “We feel that we’ve been vindicated in the courts.”
Gilberto Hinojosa, the chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said in a statement that the state’s Republican officials had “politically profited from discrimination.”
“It is wrong, and although nothing can fully make it right, we now hope to stop it,” Mr. Hinojosa said. “Texas Democrats look forward to ensuring Texans have fair maps in the remedy hearings to come.”
Credit: NY Times