A panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has, for the second time in just a few weeks, ruled that the Republican-dominated Texas legislature intentionally drew congressional districts to dilute the influence of minority voters, engaging in unconstitutional racial gerrymandering.
In a long-awaited ruling, the San Antonio-based judges found that lawmakers in 2011 either violated the U.S. Constitution or the Voting Rights Act by intentionally diluting minority voters statewide and specifically in a litany of House districts across Texas. Those districts encompass areas including El Paso, Bexar, Nueces, Harris, Dallas and Bell counties.
In some instances, the judges ruled, map-drawers’ use of race to configure some districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act instead “turned the VRA on its head.”
“Instead of using race to provide equal electoral opportunity, they intentionally used it to undermine Latino voting opportunity,” U.S. District Judges Orlando Garcia and Xavier Rodriguez wrote.
It was a 2-1 ruling, with the dissenting judge arguing that it was merely partisan gerrymandering, not racial gerrymandering, and therefore it was perfectly fine. As I’ve written before, the Supreme Court has used a much stricter standard in gerrymandering that involves race rather than merely partisan advantage, but a case currently before the court may change that.