The three-judge special panel in Washington said Texas could not prove that plans for the stateâ€™s congressional districts and both houses of the legislature were not drawn without intentional discrimination against the stateâ€™s burgeoning Latino population. In addition, it said new district lines removed the â€œeconomic gutsâ€ from congressional districts now held by African-Americans.
â€œThe only explanation Texas offers for this pattern is â€˜coincidence,â€™â€‰â€Â wrote U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas B. Griffith.Â â€œBut if this was coincidence, it was a striking one indeed.â€
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 Tuesdayâ€™s ruling to the Supreme Court.
â€œTodayâ€™s decision extends the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits intended by Congress and beyond the boundaries imposed by the Constitution,â€ 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.
Itâ€™s likely that Democrats and groups who say Section 5 is still a necessary protection will use Tuesdayâ€™s decision to buttress their arguments.
The minority and voting rights organizations that opposed the redistricting plans called the ruling a clear victory.
â€œThe courtâ€™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,â€ said Lone Star Project Director Matt Angle.