District court rules Texas gerrymandering unconstitutional due to 'intentional discrimination'

District court rules Texas gerrymandering unconstitutional due to 'intentional discrimination'

"If you set out to draw a map for political reasons, it will often look like you are drawing it for racial reasons", Ross Ramsey, executive editor and co-founder of the Texas Tribune said, "and the courts decided in this case that they went over the line and that they drew for racial reasons and that they went too far".

The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature racially gerrymandered several congressional districts in 2011 to counteract the growing number of Hispanic voters in the state, a panel of three federal judges ruled Friday.

The dissenting judge said the redistricting process was partisan, but not directed specifically at minorities, and thus did not violate federal law. The court held that the districts were intentionally drawn to either splitting Latino communities into different districts or concentrating minority communities into single areas to minimize the impact of their votes.

Texas Democrats hailed the ruling a win for voting rights, but the dispute might not be over.

"The rushed and secretive process suggests that defendants did want to avoid scrutiny of whether their efforts in fact complied with the [Voting Rights Act] or were meant to do so, or whether they were only creating a facade of compliance", the order by U.S. District Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia said.

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The two judges in the majority were district court judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia. Congressional District 27, represented by Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, resembles a shoe with an elongated tongue and runs from just outside Austin to the Gulf of Mexico west to Kingsville and north again toward Austin with, of course, a few zigs and zags en route.

Republican Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton did not immediately remark on the ruling. Typically, redistricting occurs once every 10 years after the USA census.

The panel said that in District 23, 600,000 Hispanic voters were moved and 39 tabulation districts in five counties were split to dilute the influence of Hispanic voters.

"It was obvious, from the start, that the DOJ attorneys viewed state officials and the legislative majority and their staffs as a bunch of backwoods hayseed bigots who bemoan the abolition of the poll tax and pine for the days of literacy tests and lynchings", he wrote. "And the DoJ lawyers saw themselves as an expeditionary landing party arriving here, just in time, to rescue the state from oppression, obviously presuming that plaintiffs' counsel were not up to the task". But it has outlived its usefulness, as the Supreme Court recognized in 2013.