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.
The ruling is the latest in a process that started in June 2011, when the Texas Legislature passed new political maps but failed to get them "pre-cleared" by the Justice department. That's required under the federal Voting Rights Act which calls for Texas and eight other, predominantly southern, states with a history of racial bias to submit their political maps to the Justice Department for compliance.
But rather than submit the maps to the department, the state chose to seek preclearance through the Washington court.
Nina Perales, attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said Tuesday's ruling seems to show the state's strategy backfired. MALDEF also was one of the groups that sued the state.
"It seems that Texas risked and lost more by going to the D.C. court than by going to DOJ," Perales said. "Particularly when you factor in the enormous expense of litigating a redistricting case."
The ruling comes months after lawyers for the state of Texas, the Justice Department and minority groups argued their sides in front of a three-judge panel in Washington. The two-week trial included dozens of witnesses as well as thousands of pages of documents on the redistricting process.
Texas' argument boiled down to politics: The state's lawyers said the map crafted by the Legislature reflected a GOP majority seeking to squeeze a partisan advantage out of the once-a-decade redistricting process, not a willful disregard for the Voting Rights Act. The state also maintained that lawmakers kept a cool distance from the process, leaving much of the work of drawing districts to legislative staff.
Through the trial, the three-judge panel appeared skeptical of Texas' arguments. The presiding judge, Rosemary Collyer, at one point told Texas' lawyers flatly, "It's really hard to explain (changes to the map) other than doing it on the basis of reducing minority votes."
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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