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Federal court rules 3 GOP congressional districts discriminate against Hispanics

Federal court rules 3 GOP congressional districts discriminate against Hispanics

Texas' political landscape could soon look a bit different.

On Friday night, a federal district court in Texas issued a bombshell opinion, ruling that three of Texas's congressional districts were drawn to discriminate against black and Hispanic voters.

Legal battles over Texas redistricting have raged since 2003, when the Republican-controlled legislature took the unusual step of throwing out the 2001 maps and redrew the districts. The majority ruled the districts, drawn in 2011, violated both the 14th Amendment and the federal Voting Rights Act.

While the ruling only includes three districts, if they must be redrawn to more evenly distribute the state's Hispanic population, it could have ripple effects on a number of neighboring districts that could also become more competitive for Democrats.

Texas will now consider whether to appeal the federal court's decision to the Supreme Court. The panel found that Republicans had used race as a motivating factor in gerrymandering the districts. Bush appointee, and Orlando L. Garcia, a Bill Clinton appointee, found the district lines unlawful.




Several groups sued Texas in 2011 after claiming that congressional districts were drawn unconstitutionally and were meant to harm minority voters.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton did not immediately remark on the ruling.

The decision could have far-reaching consequences for Texas politics and elections. "All sides concede that - whether it is a good thing or not - Texas has a strong correlation between race and party", Judge Jerry Smith wrote. Politically motivated redistricting is legal, but redistricting with an intent to reduce the influence of minority voters - either by "packing" those voters into a district, or "cracking" them among multiple districts - is not. The court concluded that in the southwestern 23rd Congressional district [Govtrack backgrounder] alone, boundary lines were drawn to move more than 600,000 voters between districts, thereby fracturing a heavily Latino county to deliberately lessen minority voter turnout rates.

"It was obvious, from the start, that the DoJ attorneys viewed state officials and the legislative majority and their staffs as a bunch of backwoods hayseed bigots who bemoan the abolition of the poll tax and pine for the days of literacy tests and lynchings", Smith added.

The Voting Rights Act was never meant to guarantee the election of minority congressmen. But it has outlived its usefulness, as the Supreme Court recognized in 2013.

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