After the 2016 election saw the Republicans win control of the White House and Congress, Democrats began mobilizing plans for the midterm elections in 2018. However, as important as those elections are, voters would do well to keep in mind the state elections as well. After all, it is the state legislatures that draw the voting districts and Republicans tend to draw those districts in ways that not only favor them, but also disenfranchise minority voters.
In fact, Mother Jones reports that a federal court has ruled Texas’ efforts at gerrymandering to be a violation of the Constitution’s equal protection clause and the Voting Rights Act.
‘BREAKING NEWS! Federal court tonight finds Texas engaged in intentional discrimination in drawing congressional districts in Texas!’
BREAKING NEWS! Federal court tonight finds Texas engaged in intentional discrimination in drawing congressional districts in Texas!
— Gerry Hebert (@GerryHebert) March 11, 2017
The lawsuit, which was originally filed in 2011, argued that the redistricting which took place after the 2020 census was intentionally designed to disenfranchise minority voters. In a 2-1 decision, US District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled that the redistricting was, in fact, illegal and ordered the state of Texas to redraw those districts.
However, it is likely that Texas will appeal to the Supreme Court so this ruling is only a temporary victory for the those who brought the suit. If it is upheld by the Supreme Court, then it would be a victory for voting rights activists.
As stated above, the decision was a 2-1 split with the majority arguing that Texas had acted unconstitutionally in order to violate the rights of Hispanic voters.
‘Plaintiffs have established a § 2 violation, both in terms of intent and effect, in South/West Texas. Plaintiffs have shown that seven compact majority-HCVAP districts could and should be drawn there that would substantially address the § 2 rights of Hispanic voters in South/West Texas, including Nueces County. Defendants’ decision to place Nueces County Hispanic voters in an Anglo district had the effect and was intended to dilute their opportunity to elect their candidate of choice. ‘
The dissenting opinion, which was written by Judge Smith, argued that the question at hand was moot and he was critical of of the Justice Department for intervening in the case. He also accused one unnamed attorney of behaving rudely and unprofessionally towards representatives of Texas.
While we can’t say how the Supreme Court will rule on appeal, this case still represents an important victory for voting rights groups.
Featured image via Getty Images.