Thursday's highly-anticipated ruling from the San Antonio-based panel of judges concluded that lawmakers intentionally tried to blunt the impact of the minority vote by diluting their power in a host of House districts across the state. Go figure those districts just happen to encompass some of Texas' urban, left-leaning counties like Bexar, Harris, El Paso and Nueces. Two of the three judges on the panel concluded that state lawmakers' actions violated the both the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.
"Instead of using race to provide equal electoral opportunity, they intentionally used it to undermine Latino voting opportunity," wrote federal district court judges Orlando Garcia and Xavier Rodriguez in a lengthy ruling that spells out their findings.
Michael Li, an attorney with the Brennan Center for Justice's Democracy Program who has been following and writing about the court case since the beginning, provided this summary of the court's findings on his all-things-redistricting blog Thursday (you can read the court's full findings of fact here):
* Intentional vote dilution in violation of the 14th Amendment and section 2 of the Voting Rights Act in El Paso County (HD78), Bexar County (HD 117), Nueces County (the elimination of HD 33 and reconfiguration of HD 32 and HD 34), RGV (HD 41), Harris County, Dallas County (HD 103, HD104, and HD 105), Tarrant County (HD 90 and HD 93), Bell County (HD 54). Also vote dilution on the plan as a whole.
* Racial gerrymandering in Bexar County (HD 117).
* One-person, one-vote violations in Nueces County (HD 32 and HD 34), Hidalgo County (HD 31, HD 36, HD 39, HD 40, and HDS 41), and Bell and Lampasas Counties (HD 54 and HD 55)
Thursdays ruling comes just a month after the same court ruled that two San Antonio congressional districts and one in Corpus Christi had been illegally redrawn by state lawmakers in order to diminish the voting power of the state's growing minority population.
In a dissenting opinion, Fifth Circuit appeals court judge Jerry Smith, the sole voice of dissent in both that case and in Thursday's redistricting ruling, called the finding of bias a "misunderstanding" and that the maps were just retooled for "partisan advantage." Smith, for one, seems certain the case is headed for yet another appeal, ending his dissent with the words "Stay tuned."