Texas voters and grassroots political organization Voto Latino filed a lawsuit Monday in the US District Court for the Western District of Texas against Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Secretary of State John Scott, challenging Texas Senate Bill 6. The groups alleged violations of the Voting Rights Act.
Senate Bill 6 sets forth new congressional districts for Texas based on the 2020 census, a time in which 95 percent of Texas’s population growth came from communities of color. The suit contends that SB6 violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which establishes violations of the denial or abridgment of the right to vote on account of race or color through voting qualifications or prerequisites.
Through the redrawing of the US House maps, Republican incumbents are now heavily favored along with a reduction of minority opportunity districts. Texas will now have seven, instead of eight, House districts where Latino residents hold a majority, adding no new districts after the massive Latino resident boom. According to the complaint, SB6 dilutes the voting power of minority communities to give more voting power to white Texans, who now form a majority of eligible voters in more than 60 percent of Texas’s congressional districts despite making up less than 40 percent of the state’s population.
The new voting map plan creates no new districts where Black or Hispanic voters make up more than half of the voting population, although people of color have made up more than 9 out of 10 new residents in the state since 2010. The complaint alleges that Section 2 of the VRA directly prohibits this and notes that minority communities across the state consistently favor certain candidates for office. Given the way the maps are drawn, those candidates are continually defeated due to bloc voting by white residents.
This disparity is allegedly not coincidental. According to the complaint, the bill aims to avoid the creation of new district in densely packed areas and draws Latino-majority districts in areas where the chance of success in elections is incredibly slim. The changes pull more GOP-affiliated voters into suburban areas where communities of color have recently become more prominent.
The plaintiffs seek an order declaring that SB6 violates the VRA, enjoining the defendants from conducting future elections under SB6, and ordering a congressional redistricting plan which includes new majority-Latino congressional districts.
Abbott has not responded to questions regarding SB6, but Republican lawmakers have commented that the law has been followed in creating the new maps. State Senator Joan Huffman, who authored the new maps and is head of the redistricting committee, said that the maps were “drawn blind to race” and that her team had ensured that the plan complied with the VRA.