The 2020 Census showed that the state of Texas sure grew a lot in the last 10 years: about 4 million new residents, some 95 percent of them nonwhite. That growth in the nonwhite population was enough to get Texas two new seats in Congress — not that you'd know it from the new electoral map Texas Republicans drew up last month, which gives the two new districts Anglo voting majorities. While the GOP legislators were at it, they also whittled away at existing minority representation in Congress and the Texas lege, as the Texas Tribune details. On top of building in white majorities for the two new districts, the
state's new congressional map also reduces the number of districts with a Hispanic voting majority from eight to seven, while the number of districts with Black residents as the majority of eligible voters drops from one to zero.
Not surprisingly, this hasn't gone over so well with fans of "representative democracy." The Justice Department announced yesterday it would sue Texas for discriminating against minority voters by denying fair electoral representation. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said at a presser that the new voting boundaries showed an "overall disregard for the massive minority population growth" since 2010. The DOJ lawsuit is one of several being brought against Texas over the maps, including one from the voting-rights group headed by former Attorney General Eric Holder.
The DOJ's complaint notes that reducing minority representation is particularly weird, since white folks now make up less than 40 percent of the state's population. It specifies several changes that it considers discriminatory under what's left of the federal Voting Rights Act:
Although the Texas Congressional delegation expanded from 36 to 38 seats, Texas designed the two new seats to have Anglo voting majorities. Texas also intentionally eliminated a Latino electoral opportunity in Congressional District 23, a West Texas district where courts had identified Voting Rights Act violations during the previous two redistricting cycles. It failed to draw a seat encompassing the growing Latino electorate in Harris County. And it surgically excised minority communities from the core of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (DFW) by attaching them to heavily Anglo rural counties, some more than a hundred miles away.
The new voting map for the DFW area, the suit says, "effectively turns back a decade of rapid Latino population growth and preserves Anglo control of most remaining districts." Bigots on Twitter immediately explained they're pretty sure all that growth was from illegal hordes swarming the border like vermin, so the Texas Lege had no choice.
The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas, also challenges the new maps for the Texas House, arguing that the maps reduced opportunities for Latino representation "through manipulation or outright elimination of districts where Latino communities previously had elected their preferred candidates." There again, the Tribune notes, the number of Latino-majority districts dropped from 33 to 30.
The suit also asks the court to put the new voting maps on hold before Texas holds primary elections in March, and also points out that Texas has a history of trying to pull this crap:
This is not the first time Texas has acted to minimize the voting rights of its minority citizens. Decade after decade, Texas has enacted redistricting plans that violate the Voting Rights Act.
In enacting its 2021 Congressional and House plans, the State has again diluted the voting strength of minority Texans and continued its refusal to comply with the Voting Rights Act, absent intervention by the Attorney General or the federal courts.
For the first time in almost 50 years, the new districting plan went ahead without any need for the process to be "pre-cleared" by a federal court, thanks to the US Supreme Court's 2013 decision that held it was really unfair to require pre-approval for voting changes in states with a prior history of voting discrimination. Now, the DOJ has to wait until discriminatory laws actually go into effect to sue, which is why the lawsuit is going forward now.
Attorney General Merrick Garland pointed out at yesterday's presser that "Were that pre-clearance tool still in place, we would likely not be here today announcing this complaint," and he also begged Congress to please please pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would bring pre-clearance requirements back in a way that would meet the guidelines laid out in that 2013 decision (not that the 2021 Supreme Court would necessarily respect such ancient history today).
In 2019, the Court decided that even the most blatant partisan gerrymandering was just fine, because it is a "political question." Texas lawmakers insisted their own attorneys said the maps were fair, and as long as the district lines don't explicitly say "No Browns Allowed," courts may even buy the claim that there's no intentional discrimination — it's just that those Black and Latino voters happen to be Democrats, and keeping them in check is fine.
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