A panel of federal district judges has ruled that three South/West Texas Congressional districts must be redrawn and invalidated more than one Dallas/Fort Worth area district because they violate the federal Voting Rights Act. In a 2-1 decision, the panel found that CD23, CD27 and CD35 were drawn with race as the predominant factor. Those districts are held by U.S. Reps. Will Hurd (R-San Antonio), Blake Farenthold (R-Corpus Christi) and Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), respectively.
It was unclear from our first reading of the 166-page decision how many districts in the Dallas/Fort Worth area were invalidated. Much of their discussion centers on CD26, CD26, which is represented by Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Lewisville), and CD6, which is represented by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Ennis).
Redrawing the invalidated districts necessarily requires redrawing several adjacent districts.
With respect to CD23, the court found that the Legislature’s “manipulation of Latino voter turnout and cohesion in CD23 denied Latino voters equal opportunity and had the intent of diluting Latino voter opportunity.” The court cites the Legislature making changes to CD23 specifically to protect then-Rep. Quico Canseco (R-San Antonio), “a Republican candidate who was not the Latino candidate of choice from the Latino voting majority in the district.”
With respect to CD27, the court determined that the Legislature’s “decision to place Nueces County Hispanic voters in an Anglo district had the effect and was intended to dilute their opportunity to elect their candidate of choice.” The court found that the county’s Hispanic/Latino voters could have been included in one or more “compact Latino opportunity districts … in South/West Texas” but were instead “placed in an Anglo-majority district where they have no opportunity to elect their preferred candidates.” Further, the court found “that the primary and dominant motive was to place the incumbent Farenthold, who lived in Nueces County and would likely be ousted by the existing Latino majority, into an Anglo-majority district.”
With respect to CD35, the court determined that the Legislature configured the district “not to comply with the [Voting Rights Act] but to minimize the number of Democrat districts in the plan overall.”
With respect to the D/FW area, the judges also ruled that plaintiffs proved “intentional vote dilution through packing and cracking” regarding CD26 but not CD6. It also found “minority votes are wasted” in CD30, which is held by U.S. Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas). However, the court only vaguely concluded that “the districts in DFW are invalid.”
The case, Perez. v. Abbott, has languished for nearly three years since oral arguments were heard in San Antonio. U.S. District Judges Orlando Garcia and Xavier Rodriguez signed the court’s order with U.S. District Judge Jerry Smith dissenting.
The court’s finding that the Legislature acted with discriminatory intent could result in Texas once again being subject to federal preclearance under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act.
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