A three-judge federal court panel will begin hearing two weeks of testimony today to determine whether the Texas Legislature violated the Voting Rights Act and diluted minority voting strength when it redrew political maps for state House, Senate and congressional seats. The District of Columbia panel will review plans drawn by the Legislature under Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which requires the Justice Department to approve beforehand changes to the political process. A finding by the court that the maps discriminate would then shift attention to the Supreme Court and a ruling on whether interim maps by a court in San Antonio could be used.
… The department is joined by nine interveners, which include members of Hispanic and African American minority rights groups, contending that the state diluted minority voting strength when it drew new maps. State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said his group and allies are fighting for minority voters who were unfairly diminished in the new maps. “This is our ‘Leave No Minority Voters Behind Act,’” said Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio.
MALC, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund and other minority rights groups are involved in litigation over the state’s maps before the Supreme Court and two federal district courts in Washington, D.C., and San Antonio.