Friday, August 25, 2017

Federal Court Says Texas House Districts Were Drawn to "Ensure Anglo Voting Strength"

Posted By on Fri, Aug 25, 2017 at 11:43 AM

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A San Antonio federal court has ruled — for the third time in just over a week — that Texas lawmakers intentionally discriminated against people of color when they passed voting laws.

On Thursday, a three-judge panel unanimously ruled that several of Texas' current boundaries for state House districts intentionally suppress the voting power of minorities in the state — and "ensure Anglo Republican voting strength."

This is a decision long in the making. Texas' legal battle over these districts began in 2011, when the Texas Legislature drafted new state and congressional districts to keep up with the quickly-expanding population. Most of those new Texans were Latino and African American — a shift that eventually made white Texans a minority population in the state. According to voting rights advocates and federal judges, conservative lawmakers weren't eager about their new black and brown (and predominantly Democrat) neighbors. So, they claim, the GOP-led legislature redrew district lines to dilute the votes of new black and brown Texans.

And now, six years later, a federal court has agreed with them.

"The Court found evidence that mapdrawers ... intentionally racially gerrymandered the district by cracking minority population, thus diluting the minority vote to ensure Anglo control over both remaining districts," wrote the court, referring to a Bell County district.

The judges saw the opposite in Nueces County, writing that a district was "intentionally packed with Hispanic voters," to dilute their voting power. The panel also ruled out districts in Tarrant and Dallas counties.

The state is now charged with remedying nine unconstitutional districts in court hearings beginning September 6.

This ruling comes a week after the same trio of judges announced that two of Texas' U.S. Congressional districts were also intentionally drawn to weaken minority votes, and two days after a Corpus Christi federal judge threw out Texas' voter ID law for being "enacted with discriminatory intent."

Despite a deluge of judges calling the state blatantly racist, Attorney General Ken Paxton won't surrender his fight to prove them wrong. He's planning on appealing all three federal cases.

“Today’s ruling once again found that Texas racially gerrymandered its voting districts and used Latino voters as pawns in doing so," said Nina Perales, vice president of litigation for MALDEF, a legal aid organization representing plaintiffs in these cases.

"With the 2018 election cycle fast approaching, it’s time for Texas to stop discriminating against Latino voters and agree to a remedy that will provide equal opportunity to all.”

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