Tuesday, December 6, 2022 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Latino groups challenge Texas redistricting plans

Latino voting rights groups claim the Texas Legislature's redistricting plans discriminate against racial minorities in the state.

AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — A coalition of Latino organizations and voters claim in a lawsuit Monday that redistricting maps drawn by the state's Republican-led Legislature for the state House, Senate, Congress, and the State Board of Education unconstitutionally weaken the voting power of Latinos.

In their 26-page lawsuit filed in federal court in El Paso, the plaintiffs, who are represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, claim the new maps violate the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act by "intentionally manipulating district boundaries to reduce Latino voting strength and by making improper and excessive use of race in redistricting."

"The new redistricting plans are an unlawful attempt to thwart the changing Texas electorate and should be struck down,” MALDEF's Vice President of Litigation Nina Perales said in a statement.  

Over the past decade, the population of Texas has been on the rise. Data from the 2020 Census suggests that Texas’ growth was in large part thanks to people of color moving to urban areas in the state. Texas gained nearly 4 million residents since 2010 and the Hispanic population since then has grown by nearly 2 million.

"Based on recent demographic trends, the Texas State Data Center estimates that the Latino
population of Texas will match the Anglo population in 2021," the lawsuit states.

Since census data for redistricting was not released until ten weeks after then end of the state's regular legislative session, Governor Greg Abbott called for a third special session of the Legislature, which began on Sept. 20, to deal with redistricting.

The plaintiffs claim the Legislature did not follow normal procedures.

"For example, both the Texas House Redistricting Committee and the Senate Special Committee on Redistricting offered little advance notice of their hearings on the redistricting bills," the lawsuit states.

The plaintiffs also claim the Legislature failed to consider important factors while redistricting.

"Throughout the process, members of the Legislature, civil rights advocates and community members warned the legislative leadership that the proposed plans violated minority voting rights but the Legislature did not cure the identified deficiencies," the lawsuit states.

State Senator Joan Huffman, chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, said maps were “drawn blind to race," according to the lawsuit.

This redistricting cycle is the first in which the state of Texas and many other southern states are no longer required to receive preclearance from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia or the U.S. Attorney General. In 2013, the Supreme Court struck the provision of preclearance from the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in Shelby County v. Holder. Preclearance essentially required states with a history of racial discrimination to have their newly drawn political maps reviewed to ensure they do not harm the voting power of minority racial groups. 

But as recently as the last redistricting cycle in 2011, Texas’ political maps were found to be discriminatory and were had to be redrawn by federal courts.

The Legislature approved the maps late Monday night and Governor Abbott is expected to sign them into law.

The governor had not provided any comment about the lawsuit as of Monday evening.

The plaintiffs are asking the court to declare the redistricting plans unconstitutionally malapportioned and to block the proposed maps' use in fuure elections.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.

Loading
Loading...