U.S. judicial panel finds Texas hurt Latino vote with redrawn boundaries

A voter registration sign is seen on a taco truck in Houston
A voter registration sign is seen on a taco truck, as part of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce's "Guac the Vote" campaign, in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 29, 2016. REUTERS/Trish Badger

April 21, 2017

By Jim Forsyth

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (Reuters) – A special federal judicial panel ruled for the second time in two months on Thursday that the Republican-led Texas Legislature deliberately redrew political boundaries so as to unfairly diminish voter clout of the state’s growing Latino population.

A divided three-judge panel found that the boundaries of several state legislative districts were reshaped with the intention of illegally diluting the strength of the Democratic-leaning Hispanic electorate for the benefit of the Republican Party.

The panel ruled that the redrawn boundaries were designed to either fragment cohesive Latino communities among multiple districts, or to lump Hispanics into a single jurisdiction and thus limit their overall sway.

Similar gerrymandering tactics of “cracking” and “packing” were found last month by the same panel in redrawn boundaries for three of the state’s 36 congressional districts.

It was not immediately clear whether Texas would appeal the latest decision, which pertained to state legislative districts encompassing some of the state’s largest cities, including Dallas, San Antonio and Houston.

As in last month’s 2-1 decision, Thursday’s ruling was agreed upon by U.S. District Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia of San Antonio, appointees of former Republican President George W. Bush and former Democratic President Bill Clinton, respectively.

The third member of the panel, 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith, appointed by former Republican President Ronald Reagan, dissented in both opinions.

He blasted the latest decision as “clearly erroneous,” writing that partisan advantage, not race itself, was the rationale for drawing the districts as they were.

Generally courts have ruled that shaping districts based on race or ethnicity is illegal, but drawing boundaries to gain political advantage for the majority party is not.

Texas Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa welcomed the findings of Thursday’s 153-page majority opinion.

“The Republicans have dealt Texas a deep moral wound,” he said. “They haven’t just been cheating to gain an edge in the political game. They have been deliberately holding back Texans from having a voice in their own government.”

Republicans have dominated all statewide non judicial offices in Texas for more than 20 years, and have frequently used that advantage to redraw political maps to benefit their party.

(Editing for Steve Gorman & Simon Cameron-Moore)

  • A marcus Young

    Illegal immigrants cannot vote

  • Cig

    The district’s were either lumped together or deluted to affect the election. So which is it? Are they complaining it was deluted or lumped?There is no pleasing them. Besides, it is extremely bigoted to assume Hispanics all vote alike. However they are lumped, it affects all ethnic groups, why so concerned with only the Hispanic?

    • A marcus Young

      I include those given amnesty with those who are here illegally. I do not believe Americans wanted amnesty for felons.

  • No Mas

    “ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL”
    STOP WITH THE RACIST AFFIRMATIVE ACTION STUFF

    • A marcus Young

      All men are created equal, but it doesnt mean it stays that way. The spoils belong to the victors. The strong conquer the weak. Im going to fight to the death to protect my family. I could care less if its racist to build a wall or deport illegal immigrants. I dont think it is.

      • No Mas

        We agree, I am speaking of government programs that are racist.. I am all for keeping Americans safe and upholding & enforcing existing immigration laws

  • John C

    If we wanted latinos to run our lives we could move to a latino country.They are all third world coming here for a “better” life. Wont stay that way long if they run things. just look at the places they do run. What a mess.

  • Philip Voida

    Yes, that is what you do to protect your ethnic hegemony as NATURE DEMANDS idiots, I advocate discrimination (which means informed decision) every time

  • Rick in TX

    so you’re saying judges RODRIGUEZ and GARCIA found for the complainants, and judge SMITH dissented. nothing fishy going on there. nothing at all.

  • Spintrellex

    Hmmm, how many Latino voters cheated the system in the first place? Voting illegally? Dems would do the exact same thing and certainly have in the past while drawing lines. Trump has a good portion of legal American Latino’s supporting him bc they care about their family’s safety and want law & order and legal immigration.

    • Bill Jr

      In Other Words: A divided three-judge panel found that the boundaries of several state legislative districts were Originally Shaped with the intention of Strengthening the Democratic-leaning Hispanic electorate for the benefit of the Democratic Party. (Which 2 of the 3 Hispanic Judges Found No Problems with then!)