Texas and voting-rights activists supported by the U.S. government are set to resume a three-year battle over claims that Republican lawmakers intentionally drew Congressional districts to curb the political power of the state’s growing Latino population. Texas seeks to convince a three-judge federal panel today in San Antonio that its voter maps were designed to improve re-election chances for Republican incumbents and weaken Democratic opponents, not dilute minority voting strength. “Partisan gerrymandering” is legal, the state says. The federal government and civil-rights activists say the state is making a distinction without a difference because minorities tend to vote for Democrats in Texas. “Partisanship is not a defense to intentional vote dilution,” Bryan Sells, a lawyer with the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, told the San Antonio judges last month.
“If a legislature intentionally dilutes minority voting strength because its members are under the impression, mistaken or otherwise, that doing so will help their political party, it is not legally different,” from diluting minority voting strength because they “don’t like black or brown people,” Sells said, according to a transcript of closing arguments from an earlier trial phase.
The parties will be in a San Antonio courtroom this week for phase two of a multi-stage trial. Last month it focused on statehouse Legislature maps. The attention this week shifts to congressional districts.