According to Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, Texas is violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires that state voting laws, including laws that draw electoral maps, provide eligible voters with an equal opportunity to participate in the democratic process and elect representatives of their choosing.
Garland is alleging that Texas has created redistricting plans that "deny or bridge the rights of Latinos and Black voters to vote on account of their race, color or membership and language-minority group.
“Our complaint today alleges that the redistricting plans approved by the Texas state legislature and signed into law by the governor will deny Black and Latino voters an equal opportunity to participate in the voting process and to elect representatives of their choice in violation of the Voting Rights Act. Our complaint also alleges that several of those districts were drawn with discriminatory intent," said Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta.
Census data shows Black, Hispanic, and Asian residents made up 95% of Texas’ population growth since the last time maps were drawn in 2011.
However, this year marks the first time in decades lawmakers won’t have to get federal preclearance to ensure the maps aren’t discriminatory. A 2013 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. According to Garland, the preclearance provision was the department's best tool for protecting people’s right to vote.
You can read the full lawsuit below.
But in September, the department published guidance explaining that Section 2 prohibits vote delusion. Vote delusion occurs when an electoral practice minimizes or cancels out the voting strength of members of a racial group or language-minority group.
"When we issued that guidance, I noted that discriminatory redistricting schemes are illegal and that the department would assess jurisdiction compliance with those laws during this redistricting cycle," said Garland.
The new redistricting maps were already controversial prior to this lawsuit.
Before it became law, a federal lawsuit was filed in El Paso by organizations that represent Latinos who claim the districts drawn by the Legislature unconstitutionally dilute Latino voting strength. And Houston U.S. Reps. Shelia Jackson Lee and Al Green voiced their opposition to the maps citing communities of Black voters will be split up, and the two incumbents could be pitted against each other in future elections.
This story will be updated throughout the day.