Last week, a federal district court in Washington, D.C. ruled Texas plans to redraw congressional and legislative districts unconstitutional and was denied pre-clearance under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
As a result of the 2010 census, Texas gained four congressional seats. According to the Wall Street Journal, 90 percent of the 4.3 new Texas residents are minorities, with Latinos accounting for 65 percent of the population growth. The map proposed by the Republican legislature planned to redraw the district lines of the heavily populated, urban areas. This redistricting would diminish the impact of the minority voice. Thus, the strength in numbers of the “overwhelmingly Democratic” minority vote would be scattered among and counted with the Republican votes that surround the urban areas.
San Antonio Representative Charlie Gonzalez was one of the many Latino congressional members who sued the state after the downtown area was excluded from his central San Antonio congressional district, therefore diminishing the Latino vote. Gonzalez expressed that map redistricting also eliminates the historical ties to the community for political calculations. “This district is being transformed and eviscerated,” explained Gonzalez. “It has been a Latino majority district that has created some great leaders, including my father.”
The redistricting officials of District 23 explained their orders to “split up” the large population of active Hispanic voters. District 23, spans from El Paso to San Antonio.
Freshman political science major Bryan Andrade said, “I find it kind of disturbing that our own state would attempt to limit the voice of the Latino public so much so that they would divide us. This is a simple case of abusing the minority right before a presidential election.”
“It’s a very Republican state,” said San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro, “but it wont always be.” As the first Latino keynote speaker at the Democratic National Convention, he expressed his concern with shifting policies of the Republican Party and how it would affect the population of Latinos, whose growth may turn Texas “toward a purple then a blue state”.
UTSA’s Young Democrats’ President Hannah Beck expressed her support for the court’s ruling. “The maps that were created would have greatly reduced the number of Democratic counties that Texas has. It was written in a way that will dilute the minority vote in key counties, and help Republicans win more seats in our state and federal legislatures. The law was one of many ridiculous attempts to weaken the Democratic vote in Texas,” Beck explained.
However, those who oppose the ruling by the Federal District Court argue that the redrawn map would still allow minorities be heard. Governor Rick Perry expressed his disdain for the ruling. “Chalk up another victory for fraud,” said Perry. “Today, federal judges subverted the will of the people and undermined our effort to ensure fair and accurate elections.”
While the Texas legislature argues that the proposed lines are purely coincidence, the court ruled that “the results were no accident…but rather the product of ‘discriminatory intent'” to weaken the opposing minority vote, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Supreme Court is expected to revisit the issue next month and decide if the case will be reviewed as early as next year.