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Justice Department Sues Texas Over Racist Congressional Maps

The agency says that the new Republican-drawn maps dilute Latinx people’s voting power in the state.

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland speaks at a press conference at the Department of Justice on December 06, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

On Monday, the Department of Justice announced that it is suing Texas over Republicans’ newly-drawn congressional maps, which marginalize Latinx people and other nonwhite communities while giving disproportionate influence to white voters.

In its lawsuit, the Justice Department says that the Texas legislature “refused to recognize the State’s growing [non-white] electorate” in their new congressional maps, which they drew in an “extraordinarily rapid and opaque legislative process.” The maps, which were signed into law in October, were rammed through the legislature by the state’s Republican majority.

“This is not the first time Texas has acted to minimize the voting rights of its minority citizens. Decade after decade, Texas has enacted redistricting plans that violate the Voting Rights Act,” the Justice Department wrote. “In enacting its 2021 Congressional and House plans, the State has again diluted the voting strength of minority Texans and continued its refusal to comply with the Voting Rights Act.”

This is the second time that the Department of Justice has sued Texas over voter suppression in a little over a month. In November, the agency charged that the state Republicans’ marquee voter suppression bill, S.B. 1, limited the voting rights of people with disabilities and elderly people. The bill outlawed drive-through and 24-hour voting, measures that had greatly expanded voting access for marginalized groups.

The Department of Justice joins voting rights groups that have also sued the state over its new district map. These groups similarly argue that the map violates the Voting Rights Act by diminishing people of color’s voting power in the state.

The new map creates two additional heavily Republican-leaning congressional districts, meaning that — if the map is upheld by courts — there will be 24 heavily-Republican districts, one competitive district and only 13 Democratic districts in the state.

Though non-Latinx white people make up only about 41 percent of the state’s population, they are a majority in 60 percent of congressional districts in the new map. Meanwhile, Latinx people are a majority in only 18 percent of districts, despite making up 40 percent of the population. Under the new map, Black, Asian, and other populations don’t represent a majority in any district.

These maps have also marginalized the state’s new residents, 95 percent of whom are people of color. Although the state will be gaining two seats in the House due to recent population growth, Republicans are giving white voters a majority over both new districts in Houston and Austin — a move that the Department of Justice has rebuked in its lawsuit.

Republicans “surgically excised minority communities from the core of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (DFW) by attaching them to heavily Anglo rural counties, some more than a hundred miles away, placing them in a congressional district where they would lack equal electoral opportunity,” the agency wrote.

The party has marginalized these voters despite the fact that many of the people that politicians would consider Latinx voted for Donald Trump in 2020. (Notably, many of the so-called Latinx people in Texas label themselves as Tejanos.) But despite wins in South Texas, Trump still lost the Latinx vote in the state overall, according to exit polls.

Regardless of political affiliations, however, it seems Republicans are set on taking extreme measures to suppress nonwhite voters, even when those measures are based on bunk conspiracy theories. For instance, S.B. 1 creates a monthly review for voter rolls to ensure that undocumented immigrants aren’t registered to vote. This rule was made after Trump lied by saying that undocumented people were voting en masse.

The last time Texas did a sweep of its voter rolls was in 2019, when Secretary of State David Whitley ordered a review of nearly 100,000 voters to check for noncitizens. After voting rights groups sued the state, alleging that the review violated voting rights protections, the state gave up its search.

Whitley instructed officials not to take action on the list of people that his office had categorized as “possible non-U.S. citizens.” It’s unclear what methodology Whitley’s office used to create that list, but voting rights advocates noted that the very concept behind the project was discriminatory.

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