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Victory for Texas Voters as Court Halts GOP Redistricting Plan

- Common Dreams staff

A federal court on Tuesday agreed with the Department of Justice that redistricted voter maps in Texas did not comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and that the effort by the Republican-controlled state legislature was an attempt to deprive or diminish the ability of minorities -- most Latinos -- of their right to an election free of racial discrimination.

US attorney general Eric Holder said the proposed changes were part of a larger attack on civil rights. (Photograph: Mario Tama/Getty Images) Three separate maps, for new districts for the US House and the Texas Senate and House, violated the Voting Rights Act, according to the three-judge panel of the US District Court in Washington, DC, because they "have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race or color, or language minority group."

The changes to the Texas voting maps were spurred by large population growth in the state over the last ten years. According to census data, population grew by almost 4 million people, mostly driven by rising number of Latinos which accounted for nearly two-thirds of the growth. And the overall total of that increase, according to The Nation, "nearly 90 percent... came from minority citizens (65 percent Hispanic, 13 percent African-American, 10 percent Asian)."

But, as ThinkProgress explains:

when the Republican-controlled Legislature redrew the congressional map to create the new districts, minority Congress members saw their offices carved out of their districts, while white Congress members retained theirs. Judge Griffith found that “substantial surgery” was done to predominantly black districts to cut them off from their representatives’ offices and their strongest fundraising bases, while the districts of white Congress members were either left untouched or were “redrawn to include particular country clubs and, in one case, the school belonging to the incumbent’s grandchildren.” Furthermore, black and Latino representatives were excluded from the map drawing process.

"The only explanation Texas offers for this pattern is ‘coincidence.' But if this was coincidence, it was a striking one indeed," wrote US Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith in his opinion. "It is difficult to believe that pure chance would lead to such results."

"This is absolutely a victory for Texas and for minority voters to elect a candidate of their choice," Trey Martinez Fischer with the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, told the Houston Chronicle.

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