Focus on the Court: Texas Redistricting Map Struck Down
The D.C. Circuit Court refused to give the Texas state legislature the green light for their redistricting plan that would elect the state House of Representatives, Senate and their 36-member House delegation. Texas decided not to ask the Department of Justice to review their redistricting plans, one available option under Section 5, and instead asked the D.C. Circuit Court for approval.
The opinion authored by Judge Thomas Griffith described the three redistricting maps submitted by Texas as a violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which requires any state with a history of suppressing minority rights to submit new voting districts for judicial approval. The Court was unconvinced that Texas lawmakers did not intend to discriminate when they drew the new maps. The ruling is not expected to impact this November’s elections in Texas, because they will be conducted using the interim maps drawn earlier this year by the District Court in San Antonio.
The number of states that have passed restrictive and archaic laws that suppress minority voters is staggering, and judges, by in large, have agreed. Texas has now lost its battle for their new voting districts and their voter ID law, and the fate of South Carolina’s voter ID law lies with a federal court hearing the case today. On Election Day, over 750,000 Pennsylvanians (9.2% of the registered electorate) will not have access to their voting booth because they do not have a driver’s license. Florida restricted the right of organizations to conduct voter registration drives and purged voters from the rolls before seeking approval from the Department of Justice (a requirement under Section 5).
While the ruling by the D.C. Circuit Court forcefully applied Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act to Texas’s plan, the decision made no mention of the ongoing complaints of states bound by Section 5 who claim that the law is unconstitutional. The constitutionality of Section 5 will be questioned in these challenges and will almost certainly come before the U.S. Supreme Court this term. Two constitutionality challenges against Section 5 are pending before the Court, but have not been scheduled for a conference of the Justices.
Continue to follow RACblog for our Focus on the Court and Cases to Watch series, which features cases pending before the Supreme Court. And don’t forget to check out our election resources so you’re prepared on November 6th!