The list of voting rights challenges Texas is fighting in court lengthens this week with the beginning of a federal trial in a case challenging the way the state elects judges to its highest courts. As part of a lawsuit filed on behalf of seven Latino voters and a civil rights organization, U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of Corpus Christi will consider whether the statewide method of electing judges on the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals dilutes the voting power of Texas Latinos and keeps them from electing their preferred candidates.
The lawsuit has largely flown under the radar since it was first filed in 2016, even as two other Texas legal fights over the disenfranchisement of voters of color through the drawing of the state’s political maps and voter identification requirements have wound through the courts. But this case comes with the potential to dismantle the state’s long-held — and long-disputed — system of statewide judicial elections to courts that serve as the final authorities on civil and criminal matters in Texas.
Texas has adhered to that controversial system for nearly 150 years, but up until now the highest-profile rebukes have had less to do with concerns about racially motivated voting suppression than with standards of judicial impartiality.