AUSTIN (KXAN) — A federal court says Texas lawmakers once again drew districts to favor white people at the expense of minorities, making them illegal under the Voting Rights Act. Now lawmakers who call to change the maps are getting no action. A panel of judges said Republican lawmakers drew their 2011 district maps to favor white people on purpose.
“The Republican leadership has intentionally discriminated against minorities. And that should bother everybody,” said Mexican American Legislative Caucus member Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin. He says while the court didn’t single out Central Texas districts, if minority voices are gagged anywhere in the state, laws made in Austin would negatively impact Hispanic and African-Americans.
The state’s lawyer, Attorney General Ken Paxton, disagreed because the legislature drew new maps in 2013.
“We respectfully disagree with the redistricting panel’s 2-1 decision. As Fifth Circuit Judge Jerry Smith observed in his dissent, the challenge to the old 2011 maps are not only moot but ‘a finding that racial considerations were dominant and controlling defies everything about this record.’ Accordingly, we are confident we will ultimately prevail in this case,” Paxton said in a statement.
Rodriguez says the maps were not changed enough in 2013 and calls on a House Committee on Redistricting to begin the process of change.
“The courts have done their thing and they’ve ruled that this is intentional discrimination. It’s the obligation of the legislature, starting with the redistricting committee to take this one so we can redraw these lines,” said Rodriguez.
“The maps we are currently operating under are still in litigation,” said Rep. Cindy Burkett, R-Sunnyvale, the Chair of the House Committee on Redistricting. “The court’s recent rulings are in reference to 2011 maps that were never used for an election. The maps that are currently in use, drawn in 2013, have not had a trial. It would be premature for the committee to consider changes to the current maps while the litigation is ongoing.”
Parties of the suit will meet next week to figure out the next steps are.
For more perspective on how party affiliation coincides with “race,” in the 2016 presidential race, CNN reported 66 percent of the people who voted for Hillary Clinton in Texas were minorities. Only 21 percent of Trump voters were black, Hispanic, or non-white.
This ruling is the second time this year the same court has said Texas districts are drawn illegally. The first time around they ruled an Austin congressional district also broke the law.
The only Democrat representing Austin is Lloyd Doggett. He represents the 35th Congressional District, which runs from east Austin along Interstate 35 and into downtown San Antonio. The judges ruled his district and two others in Texas need to be re-drawn.
A decade ago, after a long redistricting fight in 2003, a court ruled one Texas congressional district was illegal. Because of that, lawmakers had to re-draw the borders of five districts to fix it.