Texas can’t use its current voter maps in the upcoming congressional midterm elections after a panel of federal judges ruled districts approved by state Republican lawmakers illegally discriminate against Hispanic and black voters. The three-judge panel in San Antonio gave the state three days to say if and when the Texas Legislature will fix the congressional map, which the judges concluded still carried the discriminatory taint of districts lawmakers originally drew in 2011 with the intent to squelch rising Latino voting strength. If Texas doesn’t intend to correct biased districts, the court will hold a hearing to solicit advice before redrawing the map on its own, the panel said Tuesday. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, expressed disappointment with the ruling, which he claimed didn’t square with the court’s approval of essentially the same district boundaries five years ago.
Every voter map Texas has created since 1970 has been challenged in court by civil rights groups representing the minority citizens who’ve steadily eroded the state’s historic white majority.
Texas gained four new congressional seats after the 2010 U.S. Census counted 4.3 million new Texans, almost 90 percent of whom were Hispanic or black. Yet state lawmakers drew no new districts that favored minority voters, who tend to choose Democratic candidates.
For six years, Texas defended the maps its Republican-controlled legislature originally created in 2011 as legally allowed political gerrymanders designed to handicap Democrats, not minorities. Challenges over the maps have bounced through multiple courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, ever since.