ABOVE: Attorney General Merrick B. Garland speaks at a press conference at the Department of Justice on December 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Garland and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta held the press conference to announce that the Justice department was suing Texas over their recent redistricting which the department says violates the Voting Rights Act. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
U.S. Department of Justice files federal lawsuit to stop implementation of new congressional district maps in Texas
The person you have representing you politically is extremely important.
Every year, practically every individual in this country will have the opportunity to vote in some form of election, whether that be at the local, county, state, or national level.
The people who hold these political positions of power are empowered with the legal authority to dictate where critical resources are directed, and most also have the power to appoint or hire individuals to key decision-making positions that have an impact on all of us.
It is a big deal.
Which brings us to the importance of redistricting, which the Houston Forward Times has been reporting on here in Texas over the past several months.
Here in Texas, Republicans have stated they were simply following the law and doing nothing illegal, while Democrats have argued that the process and outcome diluted the voting power of the African American community and other communities of color through the act of gerrymandering.
The maps face at least five legal challenges based on claims that the districts drawn by the Texas Legislature are unconstitutional and violate the federal Voting Rights Act because they diminish the voting strength of voters of color.
This past Monday, December 6th, it appears the U.S. Department of Justice has taken the side of Texas Democrats and has taken a serious course of action against the state of Texas through the federal courts.
Many opponents of Senate Bill 6 are celebrating an announcement by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Vanita Gupta that the Justice Department had filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas (UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, v. STATE OF TEXAS and JOHN SCOTT, in his official capacity as Texas Secretary of State, Defendants), to stop the implementation of the new congressional district maps.
At a press conference held at the Justice Department in Washington D.C., Garland expressed the need to act on this important matter quickly.
“The Justice Department has filed suit against the State of Texas for violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act,” said Garland. “As the Supreme Court has observed, a core principle of our democracy is that ‘voters should choose their representatives, not the other way around’. I want to again urge Congress to restore the Justice Department’s preclearance authority. Were that preclearance tool still in place, we would likely not be here today announcing this complaint.”
Gupta went into more detail about the lawsuit at the press conference.
“These redistricting plans will diminish the opportunities for Latino and Black voters in Texas to elect their preferred representatives,” said Gupta. “And that is prohibited by federal law.”
Gupta also said the maps passed into law by the Republican-controlled Legislature showed an “overall disregard for the massive minority population growth” that the state experienced over the last decade, and that their “investigation determined that Texas’ redistricting plans will dilute the increased minority voting strength that should have developed from these significant demographic shifts.”
According to the 45-page lawsuit which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, the Justice Department alleges that the state of Texas has once again “diluted the voting strength of minority Texans and continued its refusal to comply with the Voting Rights Act, absent intervention by the Attorney General or the federal courts.”
Another key part of the lawsuit states the following:
In every redistricting cycle since 1970, courts have found that one or more of Texas’s statewide redistricting plans violated the United States Constitution or the Voting Rights Act. Moreover, after each decennial census during the period when Texas was required to obtain preclearance of redistricting plans under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 52 U.S.C. § 10304, the State enacted redistricting plans for the Texas House that violated Section 5. Following the 1980 Census and 1990 Census, Texas also submitted plans for the Texas Senate or the Texas Congressional delegation that violated Section 5. And during the 38 years that Texas was covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the Attorney General issued another 50 objection letters regarding local districting or redistricting plans.
The Justice Department is stating that there has been precedent with the state of Texas, in that prior to the 2013 U.S. Supreme Court controversial Shelby County v. Holder ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled on multiple occasions that race-based redistricting—or redistricting where race is a predominant consideration or factor—has proven to be blatantly unconstitutional.
Before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, federal officials were forced to gain approval for redistricting, and a panel of judges or the U.S. Justice Department could have had the maps thrown out if they found that they displayed a pattern of extreme gerrymandering. Based on their ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed states like Texas to do whatever they want, because of their belief that systemic racism is not a factor in America, as it was in the 1960s.
Senate Bill 6 creates no new districts in Texas, even though African Americans and people of color accounted for over 9 out of 10 new residents in Texas from 2010 to 2020.
According to the 2020 census, 4 million people moved to Texas since the last census was done in 2010. Minority voters account for 95 percent of our state’s population growth over the last 10 years. That growth, over a ten-year period consisting of people of color, should warrant that people of color should have increased and equal representation.
The Houston Forward Times will continue to monitor the status of this and other filed lawsuits relative to the opposition of Senate Bill 6 and keep our readers abreast of the latest happenings.