Federal Court Strikes down Texas Congressional Districts

(Photo: Rachel Denny Clow/Caller-Times)

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — A federal court on Tuesday struck down at least two congressional districts in Texas, ruling that they violated racial discrimination prohibitions.

The three-judge panel’s unanimous decision, handed down in San Antonio, could lead to a battle to redraw the districts in time for the 2018 elections.

“It was a great victory,” said Luis Roberto Vera, national general counsel for the League of United Latino American Citizens. “We fought hard for it.”

The districts include District 27, which encompasses the Corpus Christi area. A spokeswoman for U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, a Republican who has represented the Corpus Christi district since 2011, said the congressman was reviewing the court’s ruling. She said Farenthold intended to issue a statement later.

The Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment specifically prohibits racial gerrymandering, or the drawing of voting districts to dilute a racial voting bloc’s power, according to Cornell Law School’s online Legal Information Institute.

Corpus Christi is the focal point of Congressional District 27, one of the three districts LULAC focused its energy on getting thrown out. The others were Congressional District 23, which runs from San Antonio to El Paso and is currently held by Republican Will Hurd, and District 35, which was created near Austin after the 2010 Census and is held by Democrat Lloyd Doggett.

Texas’ Attorney General Ken Paxton has three days to notify the court if the Texas Legislature intends to consider changes to the boundaries. If that doesn’t happen, the two sides are set to convene for a remedial hearing Sept. 5.

If Texas wants to appeal the ruling, its only recourse would be the U.S. Supreme Court.

Paxton expressed disappointment over the ruling, and was specifically dissatisfied with a portions concerning maps.

“We appreciate that the panel ruled in favor of Texas on many issues in the case. But the portion of the ruling that went against Texas is puzzling considering the Legislature adopted the congressional map the same court itself adopted in 2012, and the Obama-era Department of Justice did not bring any claims against the map,” Paxton said. “We look forward to asking the Supreme Court to decide whether Texas had discriminatory intent when relying on the district court.”

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