Federal court admonishes Texas for voter suppression, despite denying federal supervision

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A federal court in San Antonio issued an unwelcome ruling Wednesday that Texas lawmakers would be able to design their own districts without federal supervision. But the court also didn’t let the state’s history of voter dilution and suppression of the hook. 

The ruling followed a lawsuit filed by Democratic lawmakers and voting rights advocacy groupsthat argued Texas’s redistricting process should be placed back under federal supervision— a stipulation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that required states with a history of racist redistricting to have their maps cleared with the government.

But the three-judge panel ruled that Texas redistricting could not be placed under federal supervision because a higher court, the Supreme Court, had already decided last year that Texas’ discriminatory electoral maps, drawn in 2011 and reformed in 2013, were fine.

In other words, the three-judge panel had their hands tied because the Supreme Court had already upheld Texas’ 2011 electoral maps that were redrawn in 2013 to be nominally less discriminatory.

“[This] Court found that the Texas Legislature intentionally discriminated in 2011 in numerous and significant ways,” wrote U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez for the panel…The Court has grave concerns about Texas’s past conduct,” including traditional means of vote dilution such as cracking and packing in drawing districts, and also utilized newer methods of dilution and suppression such as using the ‘nudge factor’ and passing voter ID requirements.”

“Given the fact of changing population demographics, the likelihood increases that the Texas Legislature will continue to find ways to attempt to engage in ingenious defiance of the Constitution,” the judge added. 

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