On Wednesday, the Texas Supreme Court heard oral arguments against the state’s newest redistricting maps that were finalized last year and are set to last until the next decennial census.
The litigation is being brought forth by the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC), who argue the new maps discriminate against minority voters and make deliberate efforts to violate the state constitution, which requires counties with sufficient population be kept whole during apportionment.
If counties don’t have enough people for their own representative, they must be joined contiguously, or touching each other, to form a district.
According to the lawsuit, state lawmakers violated the county line rule by splitting South Texas’ Cameron County twice with House District 35 and 37:
The lawsuit states that the new map, “violates the express, plain language of the county line rule by splitting the Cameron County line twice, extending in two different directions into two different contiguous counties to form two distinct state representative districts … ”
“I thought it went well,” Joaquin Gonzalez, MALC legal counsel, told the Signal of the oral arguments in court on Wednesday. “The Supreme Court asked some good questions at the state and seemed to be skeptical about some of their arguments.”
If the county line rule were followed, Cameron County would receive two districts wholly contained within it and one partial district that is contiguous with a neighboring county — like it had under the previous redistricting map:
Under the current map, MALC argues that its members will suffer irreparable harm and will see the representational power of Latinos diluted in Cameron County.
“The important thing from MALC’s perspective is that Cameron County is one of the most heavily Latino counties in the state, and its more Latino than its neighbors, so when they unnecessarily break it into more districts and bring in outside populations, it’s diluting the Latino voting power in at least one representative district,” Gonzalez said.
Although MALC is not pursuing litigation in other counties, Gonzalez said there are also potential county line rule violations in Henderson County as well as Travis County, which should have received seven whole representative districts instead of six districts and a partial district.
Gonzalez said it is unlikely that the lawsuit will lead to any changes before the 2022 midterms. They are hoping for a final decision before the legislature meets in 2023.
The MALC litigation is just one of several lawsuits against Texas’ redistricting maps. The Department of Justice has a separate federal lawsuit against the maps where they argue Texas violates the Voting Rights Act by diluting the voting strength of minorities.
2020 Census data shows that 95 percent of population growth in Texas came from minorities. Despite that, the number of majority-Latino districts decreased from 33 to 30 and other majority-minority districts decreased from 40 to 34.
At least nine lawsuits have been filed against the maps, according to Democracy Docket.
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