Elections 2022FederalJudicialTexas Redistricting Lawsuits Pend in Court Ahead of Candidate Filing Period

Several lawsuits over the recently drawn maps are now pending before federal courts in Texas ahead of the candidate filing period in November.
October 28, 2021
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With the new legislative maps for Texas now signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, legal challenges against those maps are slowly mounting in federal courts.

Thus far, at least three notable lawsuits have been filed.

One, which was filed before any proposed maps had even been presented to the public, asserts that the legislature does not have the authority under the state constitution to draw new maps until the next regular legislative session in 2023.

Though the plaintiffs in the suit — Sens. Roland Gutierrez (D-San Antonio) and Sarah Eckhardt (D-Austin) — petitioned the court to enjoin lawmakers from using their own new maps ahead of the redistricting process, the court has yet to make any decisions on the case.

The other two suits that were more recently filed both contend that the new maps dilute the voting strength of minorities.

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A frequent refrain from the maps’ antagonists and echoed in the new suits is that the lines do not proportionally reflect that “racial minorities comprised 95% of the population increase in Texas.”

For the lawsuit led by the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), that is nearly the extent of the arguments.

With sparse criticisms of specific districts, LULAC’s complaint hones in on the lack of new Latino majority state House, state Senate, State Board of Education, and congressional districts.

For the state maps, LULAC argues that the population deviations from the ideal district size are tilted such that there is “systemic overpopulation” of Latinos in many districts while Anglo majority districts are underpopulated.

Though the population growth in El Paso as reflected in the census was minimal and lawmakers had to remove part of a House district, the complaint criticizes the removal of House District (HD) 76 from El Paso County and into Fort Bend County since it is no longer a Latino majority district. However, the new district is still a minority-majority district with an Anglo Voting Age Population (VAP) of 22.3 percent.

LULAC’s suit is also critical of HD 118, which saw its Hispanic VAP decline from 70.6 percent in the current map to 59.9 percent in the new map.

With respect to the congressional map, LULAC only gave one specific example in their complaint, contending that lawmakers weakened the voting strength of Latinos in Texas’ 15th Congressional District (TX-15) by “packing” Latinos in the neighboring TX-34.

Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX-15) won reelection in 2020 by a narrow margin, and the district lines were redrawn by lawmakers to give Republicans an even greater chance of winning the South Texas seat.

But despite the changes, the Hispanic VAP in both districts remain high: 78.9 percent in TX-15 and 88.5 percent in TX-34.

Even the third redistricting lawsuit that was filed by Voto Latino admits that the high concentration Latino voters in TX-15 “is largely unchanged from the previous map.”

Whereas LULAC contends that the Latino voting strength in TX-15 is too diluted, Voto Latino argues that their voting strength is not diluted enough.

“More compact districts could readily be drawn that would enable Latino voters to elect their candidates of choice,” reads the complaint from the latter organization.

They do agree, though, that the high concentration of Latino voters in TX-34 is too much.

Voto Latino’s lawsuit focuses exclusively on the congressional map, and while they more generally address complaints about the Dallas-Fort Worth area and Harris County with the same lack of specificity as LULAC’s lawsuit, they have a more detailed list of problems in South Texas.

In one paragraph, Voto Latino complains that Latinos are packed in TX-16 with a percentage increase from 76.5 percent to 77.8 percent, while in the next paragraph, they argue that the voting strength of Latinos is weakened in TX-23 by reducing the Latino population from 63.1 percent to 58.1 percent.

Similar complaints about “packing” or “cracking” Latino votes are made with respect to TX-35, TX-27, TX-20, and TX-21.

Whether or not the complaints will amount to any changes remains to be seen.

The courts have yet to weigh in with their views and more lawsuits could yet be filed. For instance, many bitter words were spilt on the Senate floor over Republicans drawing Senate District (SD) 10 in their favor, but that battle has not yet appeared before the judiciary.

Unlike in previous years, Texas does not need to have federal approval before the new maps can become effective, which could expedite the process.

The clock is also ticking for the courts to enjoin the state from using the new maps, as the window for primary candidates to file for positions on the ballot will begin in just a few short weeks on November 13, 2021.

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Daniel Friend

Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.