Federal judges on Tuesday found that Texas intentionally discriminated against minority voters when it drew two congressional districts. It’s just the latest intentional discrimination finding against the state.
Hispanic voters in District 27 in south Texas were “intentionally deprived of their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice,” a three-judge panel wrote. The judges also found that District 35 in central Texas was a racial gerrymander, because race was the predominant factor used in drawing it.
The panel ordered that both districts be redrawn by lawmakers. But it did approve a third congressional district, the 23rd, which also has been the subject of legal wrangling and lately has been Texas’s only competitive district.
Texas’s original congressional and state legislative maps, drawn in 2011, had already been ruled to be intentionally racially discriminatory and never took effect. New maps drawn in 2012 have been used for the last three election cycles.
But in Tuesday’s ruling, the judges found that the taint of intentional racial bias in the 2011 congressional map hadn’t been fixed by redrawing it. “The Legislature engaged in no deliberative process to remove any such taint and intentionally furthered and continued the existing discrimination in the plans,” the judges wrote.
“Rather than draw fair maps, legislators have diminished African-American and Latino voters’ power and separated them into districts based solely on their race, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act,” said Allison Riggs, a lawyer with the Southern Coalition for Justice, which argued the case, said in a statement. “It’s well past time for the Legislature to fix these violations, and we appreciate the Court’s rejection of the government’s effort to discriminate against voters based on race and ethnicity.”
Lawyers for Texas had argued that the state merely adopted a court-drawn map. Attorney General Ken Paxton said he would appeal to the Supreme Court.
“We look forward to asking the Supreme Court to decide whether Texas had discriminatory intent when relying on the district court,” Paxton said in a statement.
The ruling comes as a federal judge is mulling whether to put Texas back under the system of federal pre-clearance for its voting laws, thanks to a separate finding that the state’s voter ID law intentionally discriminated against blacks and Latinos.