Justice Department sues Texas over redistricting, alleging discrimination

Washington — The Justice Department filed suit against the state of Texas on Monday over the state’s redistricting of congressional maps, saying the plans violate the voting rights of minority voters.

The 45-page suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, alleges that Texas has “again diluted the voting strength of minority Texans and continued its refusal to comply with the Voting Rights Act, absent intervention by the Attorney General or the federal courts. “

Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Vanita Gupta announced the lawsuit at Justice Department headquarters in Washington. These redistricting proposals will reduce the chances for Latino voters and Blacks in Texas to vote for their preferred representatives. Federal law prohibits that,” Gupta stated Monday.

Every 10 years, the number of congressional seats in each state changes based on population figures gathered by the census, with states that have grown getting more seats and states that have shrunk getting fewer. Every state has the responsibility of drawing their own maps to determine its congressional districts. Based on the results of the 2020 census, Texas’ congressional delegation increased by two, from 36 to 38 seats.

Texas’ population grew by 4 million people over the past decade, 95% of whom were non-White, the suit said. This growth has impacted the population of Texas’ metro-suburban regions and made it more competitive for Republicans. Texas’ Republican-controlled legislature passed the state’s new map in October and took those competitive seats off the map by extending them to include more rural and Republican-leaning areas. The Justice Department filed suit claiming that the state had “refused” to recognize Texas’ growing minority electorate. They passed new maps in October through an “extraordinarily fast and opaque legislative process.” “

Redistricting Texas
Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington on November 8, 2021.

Andrew Harnik / AP

Gupta noted that Texas’ two new congressional districts comprise areas where White voters are in the majority, despite the state’s growth being driven by minorities. According to the suit, the map reduced the number of Hispanic-majority districts from 8 to 7. It did this by “surgically excis[*] minority communities” by attaching them to Anglo rural counties that are more than 100 miles from Dallas.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton stated that the suit against Texas is the latest attempt by the Biden Administration to subvert Texas voters. “I am certain that the redistricting decisions of our legislature will be ruled lawful and that this absurd attempt to influence democracy will end in my favor. “

Citing the 2020 census and other citizenship data, the complaint said that “proportional representation for Black voters in Texas would be 5 Congressional seats and 20 Texas House seats.” But under the new redistricted map, Black voters are the majority in just 3 congressional seats and 13 Texas House seats.

“The 2021 Congressional Plan has the purpose of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act,” the complaint alleged.

Under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, states were required to get “pre-clearance” for their maps from the federal government to ensure they don’t discriminate against protected minorities. The Supreme Court struck down that requirement in a 2013 case known as Shelby County v. Holder, finding it unconstitutional and saying it violates states’ rights.

Garland asked Congress Monday to restore the Justice Department’s preclearance authority. He said that if it was still in effect, they would not have to announce the complaint today. “

Noting that Texas has a “lengthy history of discrimination in redistricting,” the Justice Department asked the court to declare the redistricting plans in violation of the Voting Rights Act, halt their implementation and establish “interim redistricting plans for the Texas Congressional Delegation and the Texas House that remedy unlawful components of the 2021 Congressional Plan and 2021 House Plan. Joan Huffman (Republican State Senator) said that she did not consider racial information when drawing the lines. She held a series public hearings prior to the final maps being approved. She said that political data, as well as numbers from previous elections, were considered.

Bob Stein is a Redistricting Expert at Rice University in Houston. He said that he does not expect the federal government to be able prove that the maps were racially-gerrymandered since Republicans used partisan information instead of racial.

” We all know that there’s a strong correlation between partisanship, race, and ethnicity. He said that the court had ruled that partisan redistricting was constitutional. “I believe [the lawsuit] feels like waving a flag. This is a way of saying to Texas Democrats, “We are going to try to help you.” ‘”

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