U.S.

Court Rules Texas' Gerrymandering Diminished Minority Voting Power

Court Rules Texas' Gerrymandering Diminished Minority Voting Power

SAN ANTONIO Texas lawmakers drew up three US congressional districts to undermine the influence of Hispanic voters, a divided panel of three federal judges ruled, in the latest development in a years-long battle over gerrymandering. The majority ruled the districts, drawn in 2011, violated both the 14th Amendment and the federal Voting Rights Act. Congressional District 23, represented by Republican Will Hurd of Helotes, extends from San Antonio to El Paso and encompasses most of the Texas-Mexico border.

In a statement released Saturday, state Rep. Abel Herrero, D-Robstown, wrote that by "confirming that the voting rights of Texans were violated, the recent court ruling reminds us all that the efforts to end discriminatory practices is far from over". That has consequences not just for state lawmaking, but the next round of congressional redistricting after 2020.

The redistricting was the hook behind the jab in a one-two combination aimed in 2011 at diluting the rising power of minority voters in Texas.


"The political motive does not excuse or negate that use of race; rather, the use of race is ultimately problematic for precisely that reason - due to their political motive, they intentionally drew a district based on race in a location where such use of race was not justified by a compelling state interest", says the ruling.

Garcia and Rodriguez, who were appointed by President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush, respectively, explicitly stated that districts were drawn to "minimize Hispanic electoral opportunity". It is also supposed to create geographically compact districts without "packing or cracking" them - which is a fancy way of saying without forming oddly-shaped, far-flung gerrymandered districts that protect incumbents or unfairly dilute the voting influence of a specific party or minorities. But the judges in their 2-1 decision didn't propose an immediate fix, and Texas could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judge Jerry Smith wrote a sharp dissent, with harsh words for the Justice Department. Federal courts have taken it upon themselves to draw districts with majority black or Hispanic voters to make it more likely that a minority candidate will succeed. "There was, and is, no smoking gun in this record, nor has the United States shown that the State hid or failed to disclose one", he wrote. "The Department of Justice moreover views Texas redistricting litigation as the potential grand prize and lusts for the day when it can reimpose preclearance". But it has outlived its usefulness, as the Supreme Court recognized in 2013.


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