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Background: Federal Court Rules Texas Congressional Districts Intentionally Discriminatory

Court invalidates two congressional districts giving Texas Republicans opportunity to reverse course on discrimination
Late yesterday afternoon, a federal district court in San Antonio found that, yet again, Texas Republicans intentionally discriminated against Texas voters of color in the drawing of congressional districts. In a unanimous decision, the Court invalidated two congressional districts; one drawn with the purpose of diluting the voting strength of minority Texans, and the other drawn impermissibly based upon race. While state lawmakers must wait on the court’s decision regarding Texas’ State House maps, which the San Antonio court previously ruled intentionally discriminatory, the court has presented Texas Republicans with a challenge and opportunity to redraw districts and change course on their long standing fight against Texas voters, especially those of color.

Don’t expect Texas Republicans to accept the challenge—already Attorney General Ken Paxton has announced that he will appeal yesterday’s decision, signaling that there is no limit on taxpayer dollars Texas Republicans will spend to defend their record of discrimination. If Texas Republicans pass on the chance to redraw, the federal court has ordered the state and plaintiff groups to return to court next month for a hearing on new maps.

While media outlets and plaintiff groups are still reading through the decision and deciding on the next steps, the Lone Star Project has compiled statewide new stories on yesterday’s decision in an effort to explain and provide context on the court’s 107-page decision:
The 7th finding of intentional discrimination since 2011
Following a March ruling from the San Antonio federal court where it was found that Texas Republicans intentionally discriminated against Texans of color in the drawing of the 2011 congressional maps, the federal judges again found that the maps adopted later by the Texas legislature in 2013 did nothing to remedy the discrimination the court found in the 2011 maps. In particular, the court ruled that discrimination in Congressional District 27 (Corpus Christi) and the improper racial purpose in District 35 (Travis County) was not resolved in 2013 by state lawmakers, instead Republican lawmakers allowed the districts to remain intact with their discriminatory “taint”. The Court stated:
Court concludes that the racially discriminatory intent and effects that it previously found in the 2011 plans carry over into the 2013 plans where those district lines remain unchanged. The discriminatory taint was not removed by the Legislature’s enactment of the Court’s interim plans, because the Legislature engaged in no deliberative process to remove any such taint, and in fact intended any such taint to be maintained but be safe from remedy. The Legislature in 2013 intentionally furthered and continued the existing discrimination in the plans. [Election Law Blog]
CD 27 and CD 35 invalidated
The federal court invalidated both Congressional District 27 and Congressional District 35.  In CD 27, judges found that Latino voters were “intentionally deprived of their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice” and the court found that race was a major factor in the drawing of CD35. Here’s how each district’s respective newspaper described the court’s decision:
CD35: “The court ruled that Doggett’s seat, District 35, must be redrawn because Republicans improperly used race as a tool for partisan goals — minimizing the number of Democratic districts while attempting to unseat Doggett by boosting the Hispanic population and extending the new district to San Antonio, making it more likely that voters would choose a Latino candidate.” [Austin American Statesman, 8/15/2017]

CD27: “In a unanimous decision, a three-judge panel determined the congressional boundaries of Texas District 27 were invalid. The judges ruled they violated racial discrimination prohibitions in section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution/ […] The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment prohibits states from denying any person in its territory the equal protection of the law. The clause specifically prohibits racial gerrymandering, or the drawing of voting districts to dilute a racial voting bloc’s power…” [Corpus Christi Caller Times, 8/15/2017]
Dallas/Fort Worth
While plaintiff groups made claims regarding “packing” in North Texas, the court acknowledged that the decision was “close” but did not rule for the creation of a new minority opportunity district. However, legal challenges to the 2011 congressional maps by plaintiff groups were successful and resulted in the creation of a new minority opportunity district in North Texas currently represented by Congressman Marc Veasey. Here’s how the decision was described by the Dallas Morning News:
DFW: “Plaintiffs alleged that the state had packed District 30, represented by Democrat Eddie Bernice Johnson, by creating “fingers” from surrounding Anglo-majority districts that reached into urban and suburban Dallas and Tarrant counties to crack minority communities. The state’s drawing of the original map, plaintiffs argued, limited minority-majority districts, when two or three more could have been drawn in addition to District 30.

The court sided with the state on those challenges, saying discriminatory issues had been resolved in the redrawing process by creating District 33, now represented by Democrat Marc Veasey, which withdrew many of the encroachments into minority communities and was an “appropriate remedy for the cracking, without going further.” [Dallas Morning News, 8/15/2017]
Congressional District 23
The court also left intact Congressional District 23, a district that stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and is considered the most competitive congressional district in the state. While the 2011 congressional map presented by Republicans was deemed discriminatory, a court drawn map that was adopted by the legislature in 2013 remedied the discrimination, according to yesterday’s court decision. Here’s how the decision was described by the San Antonio Express-News:
CD23: “The judges left intact Hurd’s District 23. That district previously was flagged as discriminatory after the the Legislature sought to split Maverick County in two. But the court had fixed that split in the interim maps it drew that the state adopted in 2013…In Tuesday’s ruling, the judges called District 23 a “Latino opportunity district.” [San Antonio Express-News, 8/15/2017]
Lone Star Project will continue to keep you updated as new redistricting developments arise.


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