U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland announced Monday the Department of Justice was suing Texas for violating Section 2 Of The Voting Rights Act.
Section 2 requires that all election-related practices and procedures, including the drawing of district lines, are not discriminative.
“The complaint we filed today alleges that Texas has violated Section 2 by creating redistricting plans that deny or abridge the rights of Latino and Black voters to vote on account of their race, color, or membership in a language minority group,” Garland said at a press conference announcing the complaint.
The attorney general said that preclearance — a now defunct provision of the Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of racist voter suppression to receive oversight from the federal government — had been the department’s “best tool” for protecting voting rights until it was gutted by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013.
Garland said that even without preclearance, the Civil Rights Act still prohibited voter dilution.
“Vote dilution occurs when an electoral practice minimizes or cancels out the voting strength of members of a racial or language minority group,” Garland said.
Under the new congressional maps that are taking effect this upcoming midterm, Republicans created 23 congressional districts with white majorities, zero Black majority districts, and reduced the number of districts with a Hispanic majority from eight to seven.
“The department’s career voting law experts have accessed Texas’ new redistricting rights plans, and determined that they include districts that violate the Voting Rights Act,” the attorney general said.
In November, a separate DOJ lawsuit targeted Senate Bill 1, the sweeping voter suppression bill that Texas Democrats broke quorum to disrupt. The DOJ argued the legislation added barriers to voting that disenfranchised eligible Texas voters, particularly voters with limited English proficiency, those with disabilities, or the elderly. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund also filed a lawsuit in federal court in October, similarly arguing that the new redistricting plans diluted the voting strength of Latinos. The Mexican American Legislative Caucus is suing the maps in state court, arguing that they violate the Texas Constitution.
Garland concluded by urging Congress to restore the department’s preclearance authority in the Voting Rights Act.
“Were that preclearance tool still in place, we would likely not be here today announcing this complaint,” Garland said.
In a statement reacting to the news, Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner praised the Department of Justice for taking the new maps to court.
“As House Democrats argued throughout the legislative process, Texas’ population growth — 95% of which was in communities of color — demands that the Legislature draw maps that give Black, Hispanic and Asian-American voters more, not fewer, opportunities to elect the candidates of their choice,” Turner said.
“We are hopeful this challenge by the DOJ, along with the several other suits already filed, will ultimately result in fair and representative districts for all Texans,” he said.
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org