A panel of federal judges in San Antonio ruled late Friday that the Texas state legislature must redraw congressional maps in three districts it said unconstitutionally discriminates against Hispanic voters.
In a 2-1 ruling, district court judges found the Texas legislature violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. They ordered the legislature to redraw lines defining districts held by Texas Reps. Will Hurd (R), Blake FarentholdBlake FarentholdRob Thomas: Anti-Trump celebs have become 'white noise' Republicans rush to help shape Trump’s infrastructure plan Overnight Cybersecurity: Rice denies wrongly unmasking Trump team | Dems plead for electric grid cyber funds | China reportedly targeting cloud providers MORE (R) and Lloyd Doggett (D).
The two judges who ruled for the plaintiffs found Republicans repeatedly tried to dilute the political power of Latino voters — either packing them into one specific district, or dividing communities between separate districts, a process called "cracking."
Texas Democrats called the ruling a victory for voting rights.
"The San Antonio Federal District Court ruled that Texas Republicans intentionally discriminated against Texas’ diverse new majority," said Gilberto Hinojosa, the state Democratic Party chairman. "Republicans have ensured that the dark days of discrimination in Texas continue to loom, but the sun will soon shine. In time, justice prevails."
Texas Republicans did not immediately react to the ruling.
The decision is the latest step in a years-long legal battle over the Texas legislature's efforts to give Republicans a leg up in congressional races in Texas — a fight that began even before district lines were finalized after the 2010 Census.
Disputes over district lines in the Dallas-Fort Worth area after the Census awarded Texas several new House seats delayed enactment of new maps prior to the 2012 elections, and delayed that year's primary — giving a little-known Senate candidate named Ted CruzTed CruzOvernight Defense: Senators go to White House for North Korea briefing | Admiral takes 'hit' for aircraft carrier mixup | Lawmakers urged to beef up US missile defense Senators get North Korea briefing in unusual WH visit Overnight Tech: FCC chief unveils plan for net neutrality rollback | Tech on Trump's sweeping tax plan | Cruz looks to boost space industry MORE an extra few weeks to campaign for a seat he ultimately won.
Later, the legal fight shifted to the Austin area, where Doggett's seat is based; to Farenthold's district, along the Gulf Coast; and to the border with Mexico, where Hurd's district lies.
The San Antonio-based district court ruled in 2013 that the legislature violated a different provision of the Voting Rights Act that would require Texas to seek federal approval before making dramatic changes to election procedures. But the U.S. Supreme Court later struck down that provision, forcing plaintiffs to bring suit under Section 2.