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Texas Redistricting Fight Could Spill Over Into Houston

A three-judge panel ruled Texas lawmakers violated the Voting Rights Act when they redrew political boundary lines in 2011.


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A panel of federal judges has ruled the Texas Legislature discriminated against minority voters when it drew up its political maps after the 2010 Census. The court is ordering lawmakers to start over.

The decision only refers to three congressional districts – District 23, covering much of southwestern Texas, District 27, stretching from Corpus Christi to Brownsville, and District 35 in metropolitan Austin. But it applies to all 36 districts, including those in Greater Houston.

"Not only does the holding say that Texas intentionally discriminated against its own citizens and against the voters in these districts but that it could bring under reenactment the provisions of the Voting Rights Act which require preclearance," says Brandon Rottinghaus, professor of political science at the University of Houston. In other words, any changes to the Texas congressional map would require approval by the U.S. Justice Department.

The decision could also affect the region's delegation to the state legislature.

"The likelihood is that because the court hasn't definitively ruled on any of those House or Senate seats, that it's likely that some of the same logic applies," Rottinghaus says. "So we're likely to see another decision come down that references those and probably has a similar outcome."

Rottinghaus says the next step for Texas will probably be a direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.