Texas' GOP-drawn redistricting maps look ripe for defeat in a court challenge, legal scholar says

click to enlarge The Republican-controlled Texas Lege is drawing up new voting maps aimed at shoring up the party's power in the state. - Wikimedia Commons / Chmorich
Wikimedia Commons / Chmorich
The Republican-controlled Texas Lege is drawing up new voting maps aimed at shoring up the party's power in the state.
The redistricting plans so far put forth by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature aren't just likely to face lawsuits, a top voting-rights legal scholar predicts: they'll likely face courtroom defeats.

"Seeing the proposed plans now by the state, they'll be easy to beat," said Albert Kauffman, a St. Mary's University law professor who spent two decades as senior litigating attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, or MALDEF.

The Republican-dominated Texas Legislature is in the process of drawing new political maps, something it does every 10 years. And dependably, the maps are challenged in lawsuits filed by the opposition party.

Civil rights groups have already raised red flags over the proposed maps, saying they carve up the state in a way meant to protect seats now held by Republicans while minimizing the voting power of people of color, who are more likely to support Democrats.

While more than 60% of Texas residents are people of color, the maps proposed so far by the Lege would give white people voting majorities in half of the state's congressional districts, according to an analysis by the Texas Tribune.

Redistricting maps in Southern states are no longer given an automatic review under the federal Voting Rights Act. However, Kauffman said court precedent suggests judges will pitch out maps that can be proven to deprive Black or Latino areas of new representation.

"Just looking over the maps and reading about it, it's so clear that they have diluted a lot of areas where you could have elected an additional Latino or additional African American member of Congress or the Senate," he said. "So, I just think there's no doubt about that."

To Kauffman's point, the data from the latest census shows that people of color fueled 95% of Texas’ population growth over the past decade.

Kauffman said the party in power often oversteps during the redistricting process as it seeks to shore up its power. In this case, the overstep appears egregious enough to doom it to courtroom defeat, he added.

"To be fair, that kind of thing happens with both parties, like with the Democrats in control in the 1991 redistricting," he said. "But the Republicans here I think, have gone even farther."

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.


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