Federal Judges Find That Texas Discriminated Against Minority Voters

Federal Judges Find That Texas Discriminated Against Minority Voters

In a long-awaited ruling, the San Antonio-based panel found that lawmakers in 2011 either violated the U.S. Constitution or the Voting Rights Act by intentionally diluting the strength of minority voters statewide and specifically in a litany of House districts across Texas. Ed Espinosa, of Progress Texas, said in a statement: "Texas is one of the most diverse states in the nation, yet Republican-drawn maps were an indefensible exercise to deny people of color fair representation". The Supreme Court gutted preclearance in 2013, but courts can still apply it to states that have been found to engage in deliberate voting discrimination.

The latest decision concerns how districts were drawn by Republicans for the state House of Representatives, which the GOP now controls 95-55, in addition to every other branch of state government. "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.

On Thursday, the San Antonio-based three-judge panel found in a 2-1 decision that Texas had intentionally sought to reduce the power of the Latino vote based on how it drew the redistricting map that year, calling the maps unconstitutional. 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".

In a statement, the Texas attorney general's office said it respectfully disagreed with the ruling.

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Paxton and Republicans are now forced to keep defending major voting laws Texas signed by then-Gov.

Rick Perry, who approved the redistricting plans in question as governor of Texas.

The Texas law requires voters to show one of seven forms of identification at the ballot box.

Earlier this month, federal Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos ruled that Texas' voter ID law-also passed in 2011-"had a discriminatory impact" largely affecting minority communities. That list includes concealed handgun licenses — but not college student IDs — and Texas was forced under court order past year to weaken the law for the November elections.

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