(CN) – Texas cannot use a “simple statistical yardstick” approach to drawing three of its state redistricting maps, a panel of federal judges in Washington ruled, explaining why they refused to grant summary judgment.
The Thursday opinion follows a Nov. 8 ruling by the court to require further proceedings in lawsuit seeking approval of Texas’ redistricting plans for the state Senate, the state House of Representatives, the U.S. House of Representatives and the state Board of Education.
The panel granted summary judgment only to the unchallenged map for the board of education.
“Texas’ arguments that its plans have no retrogressive effect are solely based upon data measuring minority voting-age population,” U.S. District Judge Rosemary Collyer wrote for the three-judge panel.
But the United States and intervening defendants argued for “a multi-factored ‘functional’ analysis, which starts with an examination of voting-age population but also analyzes additional factors.”
“We find that a simple voting-age population analysis cannot accurately measure minorities’ ability to elect and, therefore, that Texas misjudged which districts offer its minority citizens the ability to elect their preferred candidates in both its benchmark and proposed plans,” the 44-page opinion states.
“Texas has been able to provide no authority to support its reliance on a single-factor test, and we decline to depart from the clear guidance of the Supreme Court’s Section 5 precedent that assessing retrogression is a multifaceted, fact-specific inquiry,” the panel found.
Whether the state intentionally discriminated against minority voters is still uncertain.
“Texas only countered arguments from the United States and those intervenors that challenge the state Senate plan,” Collyer wrote. “In its brief and at oral argument, Texas offered three responses to defendants’ claims of discriminatory purpose: 1) the state’s obligation to its own constitution, which specifically bans unnecessarily dividing counties to form voting districts; 2) political logic: Hispanics are democrats, democrats are the party out of power in the state, and, therefore, it is politics not illegal animus that accounts for any alleged circumstantial evidence of discriminatory purpose; and 3) affidavit testimony by Texas legislators and their staff that no discriminatory purpose was espoused by any member of the Texas Legislature, any staff, or anyone else when offering redistricting proposals.”
“Yet Texas has not disputed many of the intervenors’ specific allegations of discriminatory intent,” she added. “This court concludes that the United States and intervenors have provided sufficient evidence to preclude summary judgment and to require further review of the claims of discriminatory purpose directed to all three plans.”
The other members of the panel include D.C. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith and U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell.