What Happened in Texas This Week Could be The Next Big Political Fight

March 12th 2017

Nicole Levin

The Lone Star Republic has been found guilty of gerrymandering.

A federal panel of judges Friday evening published their opinion, ruling that three of Texas's congressional districts violate Section Two of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibits practices and procedures from discriminating on the basis of race and color, The Washington Post reports.

All three judges agreed that minorities in Texas were either "packed" into some districts or "cracked" among multiple districts, but they disagreed over whether or not political party was the motivation, according to The Washington Post. Politically motivated redistricting is constitutional, reducing the influence of minority voters is not, on the other hand.

Federal Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia wrote that "the records indicates not just a hostility toward Democrat districts, but a hostility towards minority districts, and a willingness to use race for partisan advantage." Both judges are Republicans, appointed by former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush, respectively.

In 2011, after population growth, a largely Republican legislature added four new districts. Texas currently has 36 congressional districts, 25 are held by Republicans, and 11 held by Democrats.

Countries that banned Fracking

In two of the districts — District 27 (which runs along the Gulf Coast), and District 35 (which spans from Austin to to San Antonio)— the court found that Latino communities were divided with the intent of diluting their political power. The third district — Texas's 35th District — is held by a Democrat. This district, according to the Austin-American Statesman, was drawn to include a larger population of Latino voters to minimize the number of Democratic districts and to unseat the current Democrat in power.

While there was no official solution proposed by the court, Texas legislature will likely have to redraw the districts in a way that will favor both Latino and Democratic voters and state may also be ordered under federal supervision for its elections. The case could also draw attention to Texas's only swing district, currently held by Rep. Will Hurd, who won the last election by about only 2,500 votes.

However, this decision isn't necessarily final, it's very unlikely that any action will be taken before the next election cycle. Texas has the opportunity to appeal to the Supreme court, which, according the Houston Chronicle, is likely. Earlier in March, the U.S. Supreme Court told a lower court to reexamine Virginia redistricting for gerrymandering, but it didn't take an official stance.

The Supreme Court doesn't have a clear standard for determining gerrymandering, which is important to note since President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch might be hostile to voting rights.

The fate of Texas, and similar states, will likely be a played out on a national scale.