Voting rights advocates at Texas State Capitol rotunda

People opposed to the Texas Republican-led effort to pass new voting restrictions are gathered at the State Capitol as they wait to testify before state lawmakers who began committee hearings on election integrity bills on July 10, 2021 in Austin, Texas. (Photo: Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)

'What Republicans Want to Do Everywhere': Outcry Over New Voting Maps in Texas

"The new redistricting plans are an unlawful attempt to thwart the changing Texas electorate and should be struck down."

Texas' GOP-controlled Legislature late Monday approved new and aggressively gerrymandered political maps that have prompted sharp criticism from voting rights advocates who are warning of a Republican power-grab.

"The Texas congressional map passed yesterday is so skewed that it would fail four out of four test elections under the Freedom to Vote Act and be enjoined from use pending full litigation," tweeted voting rights expert Michael Li of the Brennan Center's Democracy Program, referring to proposed federal voting rights legislation.

The Legislature's third special session ended Tuesday with multiple maps redrawn, ones for the Texas State House and Texas State Senate and the State Board of Education as well as U.S. Congress.

"The Texas congressional map passed yesterday is so skewed that it would fail four out of four test elections under the Freedom to Vote Act."

The maps were to take into consideration new census figures, yet "the plan does not create any additional districts where Black or Hispanic voters make up more than 50% of the voting population," according to the Associated Press, "even as people of color accounted for more than 9 of 10 new residents in Texas over the past decade."

"Instead," the Texas Tribunereported, "the new maps... are focused on solidifying the GOP's stronghold across the state and protecting incumbents."

"The House map drops the number of districts in which Hispanics make up the majority of eligible voters from 33 to 30," the Tribune noted. "The congressional map reduces the number of districts with a Hispanic voting majority from eight to seven."

This is the first time Texas is redrawing congressional maps without first needing to seek federal approval thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 Shelby ruling that gutted key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Speaking with MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace last week about Texas Republicans' proposed changes to the maps, voting rights expert and author Ari Berman said the plans were ultimately "all about the preservation of white power."

"My fear," Berman added, "is that Texas is a prototype of what Republicans want to do everywhere, which is to pass extreme and unpopular policies that attack democracy through tactics like voter suppression and gerrymandering so they can override the will of the voters."

Though not yet signed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott--who's expected to approve the changes--the maps have already prompted a lawsuit.

Filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas on behalf of individual voters and a coalition of organizations called the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, the legal challenge is asking for the maps to be throwing out because "the plans unlawfully dilute the voting strength of Latinos."

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In a Monday statement announcing the filing, MALDEF president and general counsel Thomas A. Saenz accused Texas of having "a uniquely deplorable record in its consistent disregard of Latino population growth over half a century of redistricting."

"Despite having only recently been found liable by a federal court for intentional racial discrimination in redistricting, Texas has once again adopted plans that dilute Latino voting strength," said Nina Perales, MALDEF's vice president of litigation.

"The new redistricting plans," she added, "are an unlawful attempt to thwart the changing Texas electorate and should be struck down."

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