Civil rights groups descended on a San Antonio courthouse Monday to challenge the constitutionality of the state’s current redistricting maps and accuse Republican legislators of deliberately drawing them to dilute the voting power of minorities. The trial is only the latest round in a long-running Texas saga over gerrymandering and race. Voting rights advocates have long accused Texas Republicans of working to undermine the growing political clout of Latino and African American voters by intentionally — and unfairly — cramming them into districts or splitting them up so they are outnumbered. Republican legislators still control roughly two-thirds of State House and Senate and congressional seats.
The legal battles began in 2011, when the Texas Legislature drafted new state and congressional boundaries. The state had to redistrict because it earned four additional seats in Congress based on the 2010 census, which showed immense population growth. Most of that growth was from a massive influx of Latinos and African Americans.
Texas’ Latino population grew from about 6.7 million to 9.5 million between 2000 and 2010. Non-Latino whites now account for less than 43% of the state population, and Houston is the most racially and ethnically diverse metropolis in the nation.
After civil rights groups filed a lawsuit challenging the redistricting, Texas officials were forced to delay primary races in 2012. For the last few years, the state has been using temporary court-ordered maps made in 2013. In a pair of rulings this year, a panel of three federal judges — the same ones looking at this latest challenge — found that 2011 maps violated federal law.