Justice Department files lawsuit against Texas for voting rights

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department sued Texas on Monday over the state’s plan to redesign its electoral districts, saying it would esse...

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department sued Texas on Monday over the state’s plan to redesign its electoral districts, saying it would essentially make the ballots of black and Latino voters count less than those of others.

In announcing the lawsuit, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland said that the redistribution plan that the state’s Republican-led legislature approved in October violates Article 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which states that voters cannot be denied equal access to the political process on the basis of their race or ethnicity.

The lawsuit was the second in just over a month to be filed by the Justice Department challenging Texas for a vote. The Department sued the state in early November more a new electoral law which he argued would deprive non-English Texans, people with disabilities, older voters and those living outside the United States of the vote.

The department’s complaint on Monday also warns other states as they redesign their electoral districts, a process that occurs once every decade. Seventeen states have already finalized congressional maps this year, and more are expected to complete the process before spring.

The Texas plan not only “denies black and Latino voters equal opportunities to participate in the electoral process,” aspects of the plan were created “with discriminatory intent,” Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said during the conference. a press conference.

The trial presented several examples where minority districts were completely eliminated or redesigned so that minority voters in urban areas were newly counted in rural, predominantly white areas. In the case of Dallas voters, these new districts could extend over 100 miles from the city center.

The lawsuit has escalated an ongoing battle between the Biden administration and Texas, a state which has defied federal guidelines on the use of masks to stop the spread of Covid-19 and which has passed an almost total ban on the abortion that the Ministry of Justice, in another costume, described as unconstitutional.

Ken Paxton, the state attorney general, called the trial a redistribution “absurd” and a “ploy” of the administration. “I am convinced that the redistribution decisions of our legislature will be proven legal, and this absurd attempt to influence democracy will fail,” Mr. Paxton said on Twitter.

The lawsuit, even if successful, is unlikely to change the promulgated maps of Texas before next November’s midterm elections, when congressional control is on the line. by Republicans in Pennsylvania, North Carolina and elsewhere took years for courts to order new lines. The Texas application deadline is next week and primary elections are set for March 1.

The federal trial will face significant obstacles in the courts. Unlike previous decades, Texas did not have to submit its cards to the Department of Justice for prior approval under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court sterilized in 2013. The Department of Justice now has the onus of proving that Texas cards violate federal law, as opposed to Texas being required to show that they are legal.

This Supreme Court ruling also ruled out the possibility of suing states under the Voting Rights Act in federal court in Washington, D.C. Instead, the lawsuit against Texas was filed in El Paso, meaning that any appeal would go through the Fifth Circuit, which is stacked with conservative judges.

“They have a major home advantage in Texas because you are going on the Fifth Circuit,” said Tom Perez, former head of the Department of Justice’s civil rights division and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee who now presents himself as governor of Maryland. . “The oldest piece of the far right’s playbook, whether it’s voting rights, abortion rights, labor rights – go to court in Texas. “

The lawsuit follows a 2019 Supreme Court ruling that significantly weakened the legal grounds for challenging voter cards. In Rucho v. Common Cause, the court ruled that partisan gerrymandering – cards designed to favor a political party – could not be challenged in federal court (although racial gerrymandering remained unconstitutional).

The Department of Justice has an advantage of one piece of the law. While the lawsuit makes numerous claims that Texas lawmakers designed intentionally discriminatory maps, the Department of Justice need not prove intent to successfully challenge Texas maps under the law. on voting rights.

“The voting rights law establishes vote dilution, and vote dilution does not have to prove intent,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

The redistribution lawsuit comes as President Biden and Congressional Democrats come under pressure to challenge Republican state legislatures across the country that have sought to restrict access to the vote.

Even though the Department of Justice continued Georgia and Texas regarding laws restricting access to ballots and filing statements of support in lawsuits brought by private plaintiffs in Florida and Arizona over the laws of those states, these new laws could be in effect for multiple cycles elections before the courts decide whether they are constitutional.

Mr Garland said the Biden administration has only limited ability to stop states from passing discriminatory election laws – even though the Justice Department has prioritized the issue and doubled its staff in charge. enforcement – because the 2013 Supreme Court ruling ended the ministry’s power to approve or deny voting laws and redistribution plans before they come into effect.

He on Monday called on Congress to return that power to the Justice Department through legislation, and said the Texas redistribution plan and other measures that the administration says limit minority access to the polls no ‘would not have been promulgated if the ministry had retained this authority.

Currently, there are two bills stuck in Democrat-controlled Congress, but deadlocked – the Freedom to Vote Act and John Lewis’s Advancement of Voting Rights Act – that would seek to both to remove some of the new restrictions on voting and to restore supervisory powers. of the Ministry of Justice.

But with near-unanimous Republican opposition to both bills, there is little chance of being passed without reforming Senate rules, a path that several Democrats, including West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin III, do not support. .

“I don’t know what more it will take before the United States Senate realizes that Republicans have no interest in having fair voting rights in this country,” said Trey Martinez Fischer, a representative of the United States. ‘Democratic state of Texas which organized its colleagues to flee the state in July to delay the passage by Republicans of new voting restrictions in the state.

The 2020 census showed that non-Latino white Texans now make up less than 40% of the state’s population, the Justice Department lawsuit said.

But the lawsuit said the Republican-created redistribution plan “refused to recognize the state’s growing minority electorate.”

Texas’ population jumped by 4 million people between 2010 and 2020, and the increase in the number of minority residents accounted for 95% of that overall growth.

Career lawyers in the civil rights division of the Department of Justice have found that the state’s new electoral districts “will dilute the increased minority voting strength that should have developed from these changes,” Ms. Gupta said. .

As Texas wins two more seats in Congress based on millions of new minority citizens, the Justice Department has found that those seats will have a majority of white votes.

The redistribution plan also “surgically excised minority communities” from the core of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex “by attaching them to strongly Anglo-Saxon rural counties, some over a hundred miles away,” the lawsuit said. of the Ministry of Justice.

Based on demographic changes, the lawsuit said “proportional representation for Latino voters in Texas would be 11 seats in Congress and 45 seats in Texas,” but the new maps only provide seven seats in Congress and 29 seats. in Texas.

The Justice Department is asking the courts to force Texas to create and implement a new redistribution plan and to establish interim plans that address elements of its current redistribution plan that are deemed illegal.

The department’s lawsuit is the third legal challenge to the newly-drawn Texas voting cards. Private plaintiffs, including a group led by former attorney general Eric H. Holder Jr., have also filed lawsuits. Mr. Holder, who headed the Justice Department during the Obama administration, is chairman of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, a voting rights group.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Justice Department files lawsuit against Texas for voting rights
Justice Department files lawsuit against Texas for voting rights
Newsrust - US Top News
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