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In a Texas case that could have implications for other voting rights cases nationwide, the Supreme Court on Friday Jan 20, rejected a lower court’s redistricting plans for the state’s new electoral seats, which could pose constitutional concerns.
According to the 2010 Census, Texas’ population grew by more than four million people in the last decade – 65% of which is attributed to Hispanics – giving the state four additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and requiring changes in the election districts for the State Legislature.
Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, jurisdictions labeled as historically discriminatory in electoral procedures (including Texas) must submit plans for changes affecting voting to the Attorney General or the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Texas Legislature’s initial set of election maps had not been approved at the time of Texas’ first primaries, leading the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas to create its own map for use in the interim.
The Texas court’s map gives greater voting power to the new population, which is largely minority, whereas the Legislature’s map seems to dilute the electoral power of the Hispanic and African American voters. The Supreme Court determined that the lower court had overstepped its authority, and ordered it to adhere more closely to the original plan.
“Election redistricting is an extremely important and delicate undertaking, with many opportunities for the empowerment or disenfranchisement a particular group of citizens,” said Benny Agosto, HNBA National President and Texas resident. “The HNBA is concerned about the constitutional implications of this decision, and the potential ripple-effect on redistricting disputes in which Latino voters’ rights are at stake.
As a national advocate for Latino voting rights, the HNBA will continue to follow these developments closely to ensure that democracy is not being compromised.”
“Protecting the Hispanic community’s electoral voice and the right to elect their candidate of choice is paramount. HNBA stands behind efforts to ensure that redistricting maps comply with the Voting Rights Act. Maps in Texas, and throughout the country, must account for the growth in the Hispanic population,” added Celeste Villarreal, HNBA Vice President of External Affairs.