[JURIST] A panel of three federal judges ruled [opinion, PDF] Tuesday that the proposed Texas voting map discriminates against black and Latino voters. Texas’ population grew by 4.3 million, which gave it four more seats in the US House of Representatives. The Republican-controlled state legislature redrew the congressional districts in a way that challengers claim would make it more likely for Republicans to win those new seats. Under the Voting Rights Act (VRA) [Cornell LII backgrounder], Texas is required to get approval from Washington for changes to its voting map, and the chose to go before the three-judge panel in the US District Court for the District of Columbia [official website]. The court strongly rejected the proposed maps:
Texas argues that, “[a]t worst, the evidence shows that [it] was guilty of blithe indifference to the wants to certain [minority] Congressmen” Tex. Post-Trial Br. 29. But we do not find this explanation credible. Although we have already concluded that the Congressional Plan cannot be precleared under section’s effect prong, we are also persuaded by the totality of the evidence that the plan was enacted with discriminatory intent. Texas did not adequately engage with the evidence raised by the other parties on this point … we find sufficient evidence to conclude that the Congressional Plan was motivated, at least in part, by discriminatory intent. … Finally, the incredible testimony of the lead House mapdrawer reinforces evidence suggesting mapdrawers cracked [voter tabulation districts] along racial lines to dilute minority voting power.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he plans to appeal the ruling [press release]. If the ruling is upheld, Texas will be forced to redraw the map in a way that would allow the state to elect more minority representatives.
The ruling will not affect the 2012 elections because Texas will be using interim maps [JURIST report] drawn up by a panel of three judges in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas [official website] in March. The interim maps were issued after the US Supreme Court [official website] rejected previous interim redistricting maps in an emergency appeal [JURIST reports] filed in December.