Texas Republicans Racially Discriminated Against Minority Voters by Redrawing Map, Court Finds

Texas flag
A woman holds the Texas state flag during a “Dallas Strong” vigil outside City Hall in Dallas, held in honor of the five police officers killed in a sniper attack, on July 11, 2016. A federal court found Texas Republicans discriminated against minority voters by redrawing congressional boundaries. LAURA BUCKMAN/AFP/Getty

A federal court has ordered Republican legislators in Texas to redraw congressional district boundaries after finding that the original map was meant to discriminate against minority voters.

Three federal judges at the U.S. District Court in San Antonio ruled on Tuesday that the Republican-led legislature redrew congressional districts held by Republican Blake Farenthold and Democrat Lloyd Doggett with the intention of decreasing the influence of minority groups, including Hispanic voters, The Hill reported.

The judges ordered that the district boundaries be changed ahead of elections in 2018. The districts in question are the 27th, held by Farenthold, and the 35th, held by Doggett. The state of Texas has 36 districts; Republicans hold 25 while the Democrats have 11.

Latinos vote Latinos vote at a polling station in El Gallo Restaurant in the Boyle Heights section of Los Angeles, on November 8, 2016. A federal court ruled Texas’s existing congressional district map was intended to diminish the influence of Hispanic voters. David McNew/Getty

Farenthold’s district was redrawn to “intentionally” deprive Hispanic voters of their influence, the court found, by incorporating Republican precincts into the district. It also found legislators had discriminated against minority groups when redrawing Doggett’s district, which stretches from Austin to San Antonio, concentrating heavily Democratic precincts in a single district.

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, indicated that there would be an appeal. “We look forward to asking the Supreme Court to decide whether Texas had discriminatory intent when relying on the district court,” said Paxton.

Democrats praised the decision and criticized the Republican-led legislature. “Republicans initiated a deceitful legal strategy to deliberately silence Texans from having a voice in their own government,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party.

“What Republicans did was not just wrong, it was unconstitutional,” said Doggett in a statement issued after the ruling.

The ruling is part of a six-year legal battle that started when the Republican-led Texas state legislature redrew congressional district boundary lines. A court found the boundaries had discriminatory intent and ordered them to be redrawn, which they were in 2013.

But the judges found on Tuesday that the “racially and discriminatory intent and effects that it previously found in the 2011 plans carry over into the 2013 plans where...district lines remain unchanged.”

The court did rule that another redrawn Texas district—the 23rd district held by Republican Will Hurd—was done lawfully and could remain.

Voters from ethnic minorities have generally tended to favor Democrats in recent elections. In the past three presidential elections, Democratic presidential candidates have always received at least 66 percent of the Latino vote, according to the Pew Research Center.