Lawsuit claims new Texas congressional map 'clearly dilutes' power of voters of color

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The lawsuit says Republicans passed an 'absurd' congressional map that gives white voters more power.

Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law on Monday a new congressional map that will keep Republicans in a sizable majority of the state's congressional delegation for the next decade, a move accomplished by diluting the power of voters of color — even though the vast majority of Texas' population growth in the state came from minority groups.

Immediately after Abbott signed the map into law, Voto Latino, a group that works to encourage the Latino community to vote, sued the state, arguing that "the new districts violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting strength of communities of color, particularly Latinx and Black communities."

"This map clearly dilutes the voting strength of communities of color in violation of federal law, and my team will fight to ensure that a new map that adequately represents the state's minority populations and allows Latinx and Black voters to elect candidates of their choice is in place for the next election," Marc Elias, the lawyer representing Voto Latino, said in an email.

(Disclosure: The Voto Latino Foundation has previously contributed funding to the American Independent.)

According to the lawsuit, 95% of Texas' population growth, as a result of which the state gained two House seats in the census-driven decennial congressional reapportionment process, was among Texans of color.

But, the lawsuit says, the new map "actually reduces the number of districts in which Texas' communities of color have a reasonable opportunity to elect their preferred candidates, and it increases the number of districts in which a majority of voting-age residents are white."

According to analysis by FiveThirtyEight, after redistricting Republicans will safely control 24 of the state's 38 congressional districts. That amounts to 63% of the seats, even though former President Donald Trump won the state with 52% of the vote in 2020.

Just one of the state's seats will be competitive: the Democratic-held 15th District in the San Antonio area.

That is down from five highly competitive seats according to the state's previous map.

FiveThirtyEight says that the new map is "even more advantageous for the GOP than the state's current congressional map," which already heavily favored Republicans.

Elias noted in his email, "Texas has a long history of intentionally discriminating against its voters of color, including during the redistricting process. In every round of redistricting since 1970, a federal court has found that Texas violated either the Voting Rights Act or the U.S. Constitution — and I expect this time around will be no different."

The office of Texas' newly appointed Secretary of State John Scott, the main defendant in Voto Latino's lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the suit and whether he believes it discriminates against voters of color as alleged.

Republicans in Texas aren't the only ones looking to pass extreme gerrymanders, manipulated districts that favor one party over another no matter the state's overall partisan breakdown.

For example, Republicans in North Carolina proposed a map on Monday that would give the GOP an 11-3 majority in the state's congressional delegation, even though Trump carried the state by just 1 point in 2020.

Elias, the lawyer representing the plaintiff in the suit over Texas' new map, vowed to sue North Carolina if that map is enacted.

Experts say Republicans could win a back a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives purely on the basis of redistricting with maps redrawn in their favor. They need to flip just five seats to do so.

"Republicans could conceivably gain enough seats from 2021 redistricting *alone* to erase Dems' thin House majority," redistricting expert Dave Wasserman tweeted in January.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.