The Justice Department is suing the state of Texas over its newly redistricted congressional and state legislature maps, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced last Monday. Garland said Texas violated the Voting Rights Act by drawing redistricting maps that disenfranchise African American and Latino voters.
The DOJ says Texas’ new maps purposely violate Section 2 of the federal Voting Rights Act based on certain voters’ race and/or minority group — also known as “vote dilution.” “Section 2 prohibits vote dilution, which occurs when an electoral practice minimizes or cancels out the voting strength of a racial group or language minority group… Discriminatory voting schemes are illegal. The Department’s voting law experts have assessed Texas’ new redistricting plans and determined that they include districts that violate the Voting Rights Act.” “…Texas has designed both of those new seats to have white voting majorities,” U.S. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said. “The congressional plan also deliberately reconfigured a west Texas district to eliminate the opportunity for Latino voters to elect a representative of their choice.”
“A core principal of our democracy is that voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a briefing Monday. “Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act requires state voting laws including laws that draw electoral maps provide eligible voters with equal opportunity to participate in the democratic process and elect representatives of their choosing.” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton quickly took to Twitter to call the lawsuit into question, saying it’s the Biden administration’s “latest ploy to control Texas voters.”
Previous challenges to Texas redistricting plans following new census data typically came from advocacy groups. Garland made a point to express frustration about the elimination of pre-clearance, which he said “had been the department’s best tool for protecting voting rights.”The DOJ says it’s putting all its resources into pursuing these cases. It is asking the U.S. Western District Court in Austin to stop Texas from holding elections under these challenged maps and to order Texas to create new redistricting plans. That may be an issue for the primaries, as the state’s primary election is scheduled for March 1.