Published: Tue, March 14, 2017
U.S. | By Jeffery Vega

Texas lawmakers illegally drew 3 voting districts on racial lines, court rules

Texas lawmakers illegally drew 3 voting districts on racial lines, court rules

The order also said that the legislature manipulated the votes in District 26, a district in North Texas, through "packing and cracking" - meaning purposefully packing traditionally conservative voters in one district, while cracking traditionally liberal voters across multiple districts. The Constitution requires state legislatures to redraw congressional districts in their states every ten years, after the decennial census.

The ruling indicates that Texas Republicans intentionally designed three districts to work in their favor by reducing minority voters.

In the decision announced late on Friday, U.S. District Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia in San Antonio found that the districts' shapes diluted minority voters' power, either by splitting communities into different districts or concentrating minorities in a single area to limit their sway. Currently, two of those districts are represented by Republicans, while the other is represented by a Democrat.

The three-judge panel concluded that Texas violated the Voting Rights Act by carving up Latino areas and limiting Latino political strength in South Texas, West Texas and Dallas-Ft.

Texas was forced ahead of the November election to weaken its voter ID law, which allows concealed handgun licenses but not college student IDs, after a federal appeals court found that the requirements particularly hampered minorities and the poor.

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In a statement released Saturday, state Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, wrote that by "confirming that the voting rights of Texans were violated, the recent court ruling reminds us all that the efforts to end discriminatory practices is far from over".

Judge Jerry Smith wrote a sharp dissent, with harsh words for the Justice Department.

"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. A 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling did away with preclearance by striking down a key provision in the federal Voting Rights Act.

The judges cited District 35, represented by Democratic Rep. Lloyd Doggett, as one that was drawn improperly, with race as one of the main factors, to minimize the number of Democratic districts. Federal courts have taken it upon themselves to draw districts with majority black or Hispanic voters to make it more likely that a minority candidate will succeed.

Whether or not Texas appeals to the Supreme Court, time is already running short.

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