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Texas Legislature found guilty of redistricting discrimination

August 28, 2012|By David G. Savage
  • The Lone Star Project said the decision finding the Texas Legislature guilty of discriminating against Latinos and blacks in the drawing of election districts was "a damning indictment" of Gov. Rick Perry, pictured this year.
The Lone Star Project said the decision finding the Texas Legislature guilty… (Rodolfo Gonzalez / Statesman.com…)

WASHINGTON — A three-judge federal court Tuesday found the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature guilty of discriminating against Latinos and blacks in the drawing of new election districts and threw out its redistricting plans for both the U.S. House of Representatives and the state Legislature.

The ruling will not affect the November elections. Earlier this year, federal judges in Texas drew an interim districting plan to be used this year only.

Citing the Voting Rights Act, the judges said the state’s new election districts deliberately undercut the voting power of the growing Latino population. And while the GOP Legislature shored up the districts held by white Republicans, it “removed the economic guts” of the urban districts held by black Democrats, the judges said in a 154-page opinion.

The Texas population grew by 4.3 million in the last decade, and 89% of the growth was made up of Latinos, blacks and Asians, the court said. Yet, minority lawmakers were not likely to win even one more seat in Congress under the plan struck down Tuesday. 

The decision, if upheld on appeal, will force Texas lawmakers to redraw the districts to elect a greater number of minority legislators.

Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project that worked on the legal challenge, called the decision “a damning indictment of (Gov.) Rick Perry and other Texas Republican leaders who, in a cynical attempt to hold on to power, engaged in intentional discrimination against Texas Latino and African American voters.”

Texas Atty. Gen. Greg Abbott, who defended the state’s plan, promised an appeal. “Today’s decision extends the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits intended by Congress and beyond the boundaries imposed by the Constitution,” he said, saying he “will immediately take steps to appeal this flawed decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

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david.savage@latimes.com

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