Texas redistricting discriminates against minorities, federal court says

by
August 29, 2012

By , Washington Post

A federal court on Tuesday threw out Texas’s redistricting plans, saying the maps drawn by the Republican-led legislature undermined the political clout of minorities who are responsible for the state’s population growth.

The three-judge special panel in Washington said Texas could not prove that plans for the state’s congressional districts and both houses of the legislature were not drawn without intentional discrimination against the state’s burgeoning Latino population. In addition, it said new district lines removed the “economic guts” from congressional districts now held by African-Americans.

“The only explanation Texas offers for this pattern is ‘coincidence,’ ” wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas B. Griffith. “But if this was coincidence, it was a striking one indeed.”

The decision is not likely to change the districts before the November elections; the political parties have already chosen their nominees under interim plans drawn by a different federal court.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) said the state would appeal Tuesday’s ruling to the Supreme Court.

“Today’s decision extends the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits intended by Congress and beyond the boundaries imposed by the Constitution,” Abbott said in a statement.

Texas is the largest state covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires federal approval of any voting changes in states with a history of discrimination. A separate three-judge panel is expected to rule this week on a new Texas law that requires voters to provide ID. The Obama administration opposed both laws because it says they endanger minority voting rights.

Some states and jurisdictions covered by Section 5 have argued that it is no longer necessary and have asked the Supreme Court to strike it down. The justices will consider next month whether to review the issue.

It’s likely that Democrats and groups who say Section 5 is still a necessary protection will use Tuesday’s decision to buttress their arguments.

The minority and voting rights organizations that opposed the redistricting plans called the ruling a clear victory.

“The court’s decision is a damning indictment of (Gov.) Rick Perry and other Texas Republican leaders who, in a cynical attempt to hold on to power, engaged in intentional discrimination against Texas Latino and African-American voters,” said Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle.

To read more, visit: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/texas-redistricting-discriminates-against-minorities-federal-court-says/2012/08/28/f6e6a2e0-f156-11e1-892d-bc92fee603a7_story.html

 

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