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Texas congresswoman slams redraw of her district as ‘intentional discrimination’

Democratic Congresswoman Veronica Escobar claims the new lines passed by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature are unconstitutional and violate the Voting Rights Act.

EL PASO, Texas (CN) — Claiming the removal of Fort Bliss from her El Paso-centered congressional district “defies logic and is intentionally discriminatory,” Texas Congresswoman Veronica Escobar became the latest in a string of challengers to take the state to court over its Republican-drawn election maps.

The federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in El Paso specifically relates to the redrawing of the 16th Congressional District in West Texas, which Escobar has represented since 2019 after Beto O’Rourke stepped down to mount an unsuccessful U.S. Senate run. It names Governor Greg Abbott and Texas Secretary of State John Scott, both Republicans, as defendants.

Escobar, a Democrat, claims in her lawsuit that the new district lines passed by the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature last fall are unconstitutional and violate the Voting Rights Act because they were created with a “racially discriminatory purpose” and dilute the votes of minority voters.

“In sum, thousands of El Paso County residents were moved into and out of CD 16 in order to accomplish a racial gerrymander that will prevent Latino voters in CD 23 from electing their preferred candidate and remove a critical community of interest from El Paso,” the 15-page lawsuit states.

“The removal of critical communities of interest like Ft. Bliss from CD 16 is an act of intentional discrimination,” according to Escobar’s filing.

Escobar’s congressional district has been home to the Fort Bliss military installation since the district was created in 1902. Today Fort Bliss is the single largest employer in the region, supporting a total of 167,358 people with an estimated annual contribution of approximately $25.6 billion, the lawsuit says.

From 1992 to 2000, the base headquartered in El Paso was split between the San Antonio-based 23rd Congressional District and Escobar’s El Paso-based district. The 2021 redraw removes the base from the 16th District completely and places it into the 23rd District, represented by Republican Congressman Tony Gonzales, who Escobar also took aim at in her lawsuit.

“The current incumbent has failed to respond to the needs of minorities throughout CD 23 and in El Paso County, specifically. Moving even more of El Paso County - especially Fort Bliss - into CD 23 would only serve to further disenfranchise those voters,” the lawsuit states.

About a dozen lawsuits have been filed by organizations and Texas residents challenging the Republican-drawn maps since Abbott signed them into law in October, according to an analysis of cases complied by Courthouse News.

The Justice Department last month also took Texas to court, claiming in a federal lawsuit that the Lone Star State violated the Voting Rights Act by drawing political maps that decrease the voting power of minorities.

Escobar is represented by Martin Golando, a San Antonio attorney with Garza Golando Moran who has filed at least four voting rights lawsuits related to the latest redistricting process on behalf of Democrats.

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