A longstanding issue in American politics is that of minority representation in government. Such underlies the creation of one of the key components to the U.S. electoral system, the electoral college — although the “minority” that the electoral college was once intended to protect was slaveholding white people in the South.
In the most recent election, the issue of access to the ballot box for vulnerable populations reared its head yet again. In places like Wisconsin, rights groups fought against laws that required certain forms of ID to cast a ballot that it just isn’t a given are available to certain minority populations. Similar situations unfolded in Republican-controlled jurisdictions elsewhere in the country.
Now, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas has ruled against the Texas state government and ordered two Congressional districts in the state to be redrawn.
The court’s ruling finds the Congressional district lines in the 27th and 35th districts to be against the law and the product of racially driven gerrymandering. These districts are held by Reps. Blake Farenthold, who is a Republican, and Lloyd Doggett, who is a Democrat, respectively.
In the case of Farenthold’s district, the court says that Hispanic voters have been denied a proper voice. In the case of Doggett’s district, the court has found minority voters’ voices to be squashed through them all being packed in the same district.
The odd thing is that the district lines that the court ruled are against the law are actually the product of this same court.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton addressed this in his response to the court’s ruling, also indicating his intent to file an appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court, saying:
‘[T]he portion of the ruling that went against Texas is puzzling considering the Legislature adopted the congressional map the same court itself adopted in 2012. We look forward to asking the Supreme Court to decide whether Texas had discriminatory intent when relying on the district court.’
The court also addressed this issue in their ruling, which states that the legislature “engaged in no deliberative process to remove any… taint and intentionally furthered and continued the existing discrimination in the plans.” In other words, yes, the court approved the lines currently in usage, but that approval came under extenuating circumstances and the legislature was supposed to come along after the court and update the district lines.
They did not do any such thing, however.
The “extenuating circumstances” are birthed out of the fact that back in 2012, the court ruled against the district lines that had been drawn up by state legislators in the 2010 redistricting. Thus, the court drew up temporary lines to use in the 2012 election — and, as the Texas Tribune reports, the state legislature adopted those lines as official in 2013.
The court has now ordered the Texas state government to tell them within three business days whether they themselves will take up the redistricting. If not, then the redistricting is slated to take place under the supervision of the courts.
As mentioned, the Texas State Attorney General has indicated that he intends to appeal the district court’s decision to the Supreme Court.
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