SAN ANTONIO (AP) — The future of Texas' voting districts is again in question after a federal court Tuesday found evidence of discrimination in new district maps approved by the state's Republican-controlled Legislature last year.
The U.S. District Court in Washington wrote in a 154-page opinion that the maps don't comply with the federal Voting Rights Act because state prosecutors failed to prove that Texas lawmakers did not draw the new congressional and state Senate districts "without discriminatory purposes."
The ruling applies to the maps originally drawn by the Legislature in 2011, and not interim maps drawn by a San Antonio federal court that are to be used in the upcoming elections this November. The Washington court's Tuesday decision is most likely to impact the maps that will be used in the next election cycle in 2014.
Luis Vera, an attorney for the League of United Latin American Citizens, called the ruling "better late than never" and a win for his and other minority rights groups that sued the state over the maps.
"The three-judge panel unanimously found intentional discrimination across the state. There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it," Vera said.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"Today's decision extends the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits intended by Congress and beyond the boundaries imposed by the Constitution," Abbott said in a statement.
How Texas redrew its political boundaries was closely watched after the state was awarded four additional U.S. House seats based on a booming population largely driven by minorities. Those congressional seats were carved equally into two safely Republican and two safely Democratic districts.