The U.S. Department of Justice announced Dec. 6 that it is suing the state of Texas over maps created during the recent redistricting process.
The lawsuit states that new maps disenfranchise Black and Latino voters through a process called “vote dilution,” which spreads voters of color through several districts to reduce their voting power. The complaint states that this violates Section 2 of the Votings Right Act.
“The redistricting plans approved by the Texas state Legislature and signed into law by the governor will deny Black and Latino voters an equal opportunity to participate in the election process and to elect representatives of their choice in violation of the Voting Rights Act,” U.S. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said.
The complaint also alleges that several of the districts were drawn with discriminatory intent, through a rushed process that lacked expert and citizen input.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott approved the maps Oct. 25, which will determine how Texans are represented at the state and federal levels for the next decade. The maps will go into effect Jan. 18, 2022.
The maps have already been challenged in court. A lawsuit from Voto Latino, as well as several others, claims that 95% of the population grown in Texas, as measured by the 2010 and 2020 censuses, stems from growth in minority populations, yet it says the new maps increase the number of majority white districts.
This is the first time in decades that Texas was not bound by preclearance—a 1965 Voting Rights Act provision requiring federal approval of maps from states with a history of disenfranchising minority voters. The Supreme Court eliminated preclearance requirements in 2013.
"The Department of Justice's absurd lawsuit against our state is the Biden administration's latest ploy to control Texas voters. I am confident that our Legislature's redistricting decisions will be proven lawful, and this preposterous attempt to sway democracy will fail," Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office said in a statement released on Twitter.
State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, who led the redistricting process in the Senate, addressed similar concerns during a Sept. 24 redistricting committee session.
“ ... We drew these maps race-blind. We have not looked at any racial data as we drew these maps, and to this date I have not looked at any racial data. ... I have not drawn these maps on a racial basis,” Huffman said.
Community Impact Newspaper has reached out to Huffman's office for a comment on the lawsuit.
According to census data, the proportion of white Texans fell from 72.43% to 54.99% over the last decade. The new maps, however, create more majority-white districts than there are currently.
Ben Thompson contributed to this report.