(Austin, Texas) — The Texas State Legislature approved redistricting maps for the state House, the state Senate, and U.S. Congress that are based on the unconstitutional and impermissible use of race. These maps dilute the voting strength of Black voters and other voters of color, according to a lawsuit filed Friday by civil rights advocates against Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Secretary of State John Scott.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and Dechert LLP are representing the Texas State Conference of the NAACP. The complaint was filed in federal court in the Western District of Texas, Austin Division.
According to the suit, the Texas Legislature’s consideration of race was the dominant factor in redistricting decisions. The Legislature and its line drawers not only ignored the astounding growth of communities of color in failing to create additional majority-minority districts made possible due to population growth in communities of color but actually reduced the number of majority-minority districts in the state. In these districts, the Legislature removed voters of color and added white voters, a maneuver that resulted in the dilution of the voting strength of Black voters and other voters of color. The lawsuit requests the court to invalidate these new maps on the grounds that they violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees equal protection under the law and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which prohibits efforts to dilute the voting power of protected groups that have historically faced racial discrimination in voting.
“These maps fail to account for the enormous increase in the populations of people of color in the last decade, and, in particular, dilute the voting rights of Black voters and other voters of color,” said Ezra Rosenberg, co-director of the Voting Rights Project with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Even though Texas added nearly 4 million residents of color in the past decade, the new redistricting maps actually create fewer districts in which voters of color have the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. This is backward and a perversion of justice that cannot stand. The court must recognize this illegal chicanery for what it is and rule that these maps are unconstitutional and act to protect the voice of every voter in Texas.”
“The State’s Redistricting Map drawers and legislative proponents have abused and misused minority voters in the maps adopted by the Texas Legislature and signed into law by the Governor,” said Gary Bledsoe, president of the Texas State Conference of the NAACP. “Black voters and voters of color are moved around at will like putty in a grade school creative art class. These maps have a single-minded purpose, ensuring that a white voting bloc will have unquestioned control of the State for the foreseeable future without regard to their dwindling population and overall voter registration numbers. In essence these maps create new math, making 40 greater than 60.”
Texas’ growth in population has been concentrated in and around the state’s urban counties—for example, in Fort Bend, Brazoria and Harris Counties around Houston, and in Denton, Dallas, Tarrant, Collin, and Wise Counties around Dallas. These maps in no way accurately reflect the growing diversity of the state, robbing many Texans of their constitutional rights.
“This lawsuit is the latest in the NAACP’s long history of protecting voting rights,” said Janette McCarthy Wallace, General Counsel, NAACP, “We are filing today because the state’s district maps seek to strip Black, Latinx, and Asian-American Texans of their voting power. We refuse to remain silent while others unlawfully try to prevent us from electing candidates of our choice.”
“We are committed to ensuring all eligible voters, and especially historically disenfranchised voters of color, are able to participate meaningfully and elect candidates of their choice, without having their votes diluted. ”said Lindsey Cohan, counsel at Dechert LLP.
Read the lawsuit here.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes.