(CN) – The Texas Democratic Party lost its bid to have a Voting Rights Act lawsuit thrown out by a federal three-judge panel in San Antonio. Minority voters challenged how the party decides the number of delegates each district may send to the state nominating convention.
Under the “Texas two-step” nomination system for the 2008 election, the party allocated about three-fourths of its delegates to the Democratic National Convention based on a presidential primary. The other third were selected at the party’s state nominating convention.
The League of United Latin American Citizens of Texas, the Mexican American Bar Association of Houston and a handful of individual voters challenged how the party decides which delegates to send to the convention.
They claimed that the party should use the percentage of Democratic support in each district, not the raw vote totals, to allocate delegates. Because majority Latino districts are usually smaller than majority white districts, the raw-vote method causes Latino voters to be underrepresented at the convention, the plaintiffs claimed, despite their party loyalty.
The judicial panel initially dismissed the complaint, but the 5th Circuit revived the claims against the party, but not the state.
On remand, the district court panel ruled that the Texas Democratic Party must “pre-clear” its delegate selection formula with the attorney general or the D.C. District Court, because it might violate the Voting Rights Act. The ruling rejected the party’s motion for summary judgment.
The panel emphasized that its ruling doesn’t address whether the delegate allocation plan actually discriminates against minority voters.
Writing for the panel, 5th Circuit Judge Edward Prado held that the defendant “provided no specific explanation as to how a requirement that it pre-clear its delegate allocation formula impacts its associational freedoms.”
U.S. District Judges Samuel Biery Jr. and Xavier Rodriguez joined the opinion.