The state faces an assortment of legal challenges to its congressional and statehouse maps, including allegations of intentional discrimination, vote dilution and racial gerrymandering. For example:
In the Rio Grande Valley, the plaintiffs allege map-drawers reconfigured a congressional district to offer Republicans a more competitive edge by manipulating precincts in and out of the district based on race. They also argue lawmakers discriminated against Latino voters by “making improper and excessive use of race” in each of its maps.
Across North Texas, the challengers point to several instances in which communities of color were siphoned off from diverse districts and submerged into more rural districts dominated by white voters in which they will have less of a political voice.
In some areas where voters of color were gaining political ground, Republican map-drawers elaborately manipulated lines to create district boundaries that could diminish their influence.
Republican lawmakers and attorneys representing the state in court have denied that their work ran afoul of the Voting Rights Act or constitutional protections against discrimination.
While the pathway to challenging voting laws in federal court has been narrowed as the law has been weakened, voters have found a way forward through Section 2, which prohibits any voting practice or procedure that “results in a denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race.” Violations of the law occur when, “based on the totality of circumstances,” groups of voters of color have less opportunity to participate in the political process or to elect representatives of their choice.
Texas has repeatedly run afoul of protections for voters of color in the past.
In a majority opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts, the court leaned on precedent to reject Alabama’s argument that Section 2 is unconstitutional because it places too much emphasis on race. Alabama’s various arguments, including a pitch for race-neutral tests, could have radically changed how Section 2 claims are litigated.
Lawmakers are generally not allowed to draw districts predominantly on the basis of race. But the Voting Rights Act can require them to consider race when sketching boundaries under certain circumstances, namely to protect or create “opportunity districts” in which voters of color make up a majority of the electorate and can usually elect their preferred candidate.
“[This] was the court taking a very, very standard approach to a redistricting challenge under the Voting Rights Act,” said [Nina] Perales, who is representing Latino plaintiffs in the Texas redistricting case after successfully challenging the state’s maps last cycle.
The Texas redistricting case, which is further behind than challenges to other states’ maps, is chock full of Section 2 claims.
Some plaintiffs’ lawyers said the Supreme Court’s ruling would not change much of their approach to those claims, while others said the decision clarified the complex legal framework needed to prove a violation of Section 2. But they agreed that the court’s ruling dispatched some of the arguments states like Texas might look to in defending against their challenges.
“One of the things that the majority did is it really refused to rewrite Section 2 along the lines of various arguments that defendants are raising across the country,” said Yurij Rudensky, who serves as a redistricting counsel for the Brennan Center for Justice and represents a group of plaintiffs in the Texas case.
See here for the background, and read the rest. There’s no question that Texas packed and cracked to its heart’s content in 2021. The question is whether the courts, up to and including SCOTUS, will rule that they did so in an acceptable way. I’m not dumb enough to try to predict that. Hell, given the status of the cases (see the story), we probably won’t even get an initial ruling in time for the next election. We’ll be able to see how the rulings go in other states first, as a consolation prize. Settle in, these things always take a lot of time.