Texas Republicans have been sharpening their gerrymandering skills to prevent minorities from turning out at the polls, because these voters tend to side with Democrats. The Lone Star state’s congressional districts ended up looking like strange creatures from two miles beneath the ocean’s surface.
Texas and other Southern states had to get advance federal approval prior to altering its voting laws. In 2013, the Supreme Court wrote a decision changing all of that — it freed Texas legislators to gerrymander to their heart’s content.
The court’s ruling cast out key Voting Rights Act provisions, allowing the Texas legislature to pass a law, which was intended to discriminate against minority voters. Then, a federal judge found that the Texans wrote legislation for the express purpose of discriminating against minority voters, which of course it was.
Federal Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas struck down the law in her federal court, which means Texas may return to federal voting oversight. According to The New York Times, she wrote:
‘Upon reconsideration and a re-weighing of the evidence in conformity with the Fifth Circuit’s opinion, the court holds that the evidence found ‘infirm’ did not tip the scales.’
Texas has had one of the roughest ID laws in the U.S. The law made voters show identification at the ballot box, one of seven specific types. College student IDs did not count, but concealed handgun licenses were acceptable.
Last year the court ordered Texas to be more flexible in the presidential elections, because the state violated the federal Voting Rights Act. Texas appealed the decision, and a federal appellate court instructed Gonzales Ramos to review the issue once more. The New Orleans based federal Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said she incorporated too much of Texas’ pattern of discriminating voting measures.
Time reported that Gonzales Ramos wrote in her ruling:
‘Proponents touted SB 14 as a remedy for voter fraud, consistent with efforts of other states. As previously demonstrated, the evidence shows a tenuous relationship between those rationales and the actual terms of the bill.’
A separate three-judge panel in San Antonio found that the Texas voting rights law was not adequate. It discovered the Republicans had gerrymandered some congressional districts based upon race to counteract the growing minorities’ electoral power. Gonzales Ramos’ decision followed the panel’s ruling.
In 2011, the Republican Texas Legislature approved the gerrymanded maps, and former Governor Rick Perry signed the voter ID law.
Judge Gonzales Ramos’ ruling means Texas could see a penalty of federal oversight with decades long impact. The state is the first to return preclearance [federal oversight], since the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision.
Check out this video, a crash course on gerrymandering:
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