The Continuing Legal Fight Over Texas Redistricting

by | Jun 1, 2022 | News, Redistricting

On May 31, The Supreme Court denied three Texas Republican lawmakers the ability to avoid questioning under oath in lawsuits by the Biden administration and civil rights groups that say the recently-accepted Texas voting maps are racially discriminatory. 

The Justice Department contends the current lines violate the Voting Rights Act by diluting the power of Black and brown voters, and analysts have called the prejudiced district map arguably “the worst gerrymander in the country,” as its effectiveness in awarding Republicans more seats is compounded by the state’s outsized impact on national politics due to its population size.

The brutal gerrymander not only increases the political power of Republican voters but also eliminates most general election competition due to the new districts’ overwhelming partisan leanings. The partisan districting eliminates proper representation for many minority voters and limits constituents’ influence to low turnout party primaries.

The gerrymander will last until the next map drawing process in 2032, when the 2030 Census data is available to redistribute voters into their districts once again. Furthermore, the success of racial gerrymandering’s proponents in the legal systems has made the fair redrawing the maps in time for this year’s midterm elections an impossibility. Even in a best case scenario where the gerrymander’s legality gets overturned in court, the earliest it can be replaced is before the 2024 election.

The court’s decision regarding the lawmakers’ depositions provides a glimmer of hope for those fighting to reverse the partisan, racially-discriminatory maps, as it would appear to go against the far-right court’s interest. However, while the court’s lack of challenge to the Texas lawsuit demonstrates its willingness to occasionally avoid pure political partisanship, it belies the conservative court’s steady commitment to incapacitating the Voting Rights Act.

The court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder infamously weakened the landmark civil rights legislation, and the members of its current right-wing majority will likely soon further roll back its power to prevent racial discrimination in the drawing of congressional districts. They will do so using the ongoing Alabama redistricting case Merrill v. Milligan, which concerns Black underrepresentation in the Southern state’s newest district maps. The justices already weighed in on the case this February through a majority shadow docket ruling that allowed the inequitable map to stand whilst it makes its way through the court system, putting in motion an official review of the map’s constitutionality that will occur within the next year.

It is possible that if all things go right for the Justice Department and opponents of discriminatory gerrymandering, the current Texas maps might be redrawn in 2024. Based on the arch-conservative direction of our legal system though, it might very well be the last time civil rights advocates get a chance to use the Voting Rights Act to fight for proper representation.

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