The new political maps for the Texas House and the state’s congressional delegation don’t protect the electoral power of the state’s minority populations as required by the federal Voting Rights Act, the U.S. Department of Justice said in legal briefs filed in federal court Monday.
The map for the state Senate does comply with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, DOJ’s lawyers said. The Justice Department didn’t offer an opinion on the legality of the new State Board of Education map, saying instead that “the court will have to make its own determination” about that plan.
“It’s consistent with what we’ve been saying,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, who heads the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. His and other groups have argued that the state didn’t account for the growth in minority populations over the last 10 years — minorities made up 89 percent of the state’s overall growth — and that in some cases, the Legislature actually diluted the representation that was already in place.
Texas is one of several states required under federal law to seek preclearance for any changes it makes in election law — from redistricting maps to voter ID requirements to changes in voting locations. Instead of asking the Obama administration’s Justice Department for approval, the state asked the federal court in the District of Columbia for a ruling. The DOJ filing on Monday was in response to the state’s action.
In the Justice Department’s 10-page filing, federal lawyers “admit that the proposed Senate plan complies with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act” — the part of the law that ensures the state doesn’t dilute minority voting strength.