The Justice Department sued Texas on Monday over the state’s plan to redraw its voting districts for Congress and the state House. The lawsuit claims that Texas lawmakers diluted the significance of votes cast by Latino and Black voters, and that some aspects of the plan were created with “discriminatory intent.”
In announcing the suit, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said that the redistricting plan that Texas approved violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which says that voters cannot be denied equal access to the political process based on their race or ethnicity. He explained that the Biden administration has only a limited ability to keep states from enacting discriminatory voting laws due to a 2013 Supreme Court decision that ended the department’s authority to approve or deny voting laws and redistricting plans before they went into effect. Garland asked Congress to restore the department’s authority,
At a press conference, U.S. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta echoed Garland’s message and argued that the maps showed an “overall disregard for the massive minority population growth” the state experienced over the last decade.”
“Our investigation determined that Texas’ redistricting plans will dilute the increased minority voting strength that should have developed from these significant demographic shifts,” Gupta said. She went on to describe the rushed process of redistricting undertaken by the state that provided minimal opportunities for public comment and no public testimony.
The recent lawsuit filed by the Justice Department follows one filed earlier this year by the Biden administration in federal court in Texas, alongside a collection of individual voters and organizations representing voters of color that have already sued the state over maps that help solidify the GOP’s dominance. The maps are expected to face at least five legal challenges based on claims of unconstitutionality and violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.
The Justice Department’s lawsuit comes as President Biden and congressional Democrats face sustained pressure to combat Republican state legislatures around the nation that have sought to curb voting access. The lawsuit also asks Congress to prevent the state from conducting the upcoming March primaries under the challenged maps.