Marilyn Tennissen Aug. 29, 2012, 2:49pm

A federal court has declared that Texas’ redistricting maps discriminate against minorities.

On Tuesday, a three-judge special panel in Washington, D.C., concluded that the maps – favored by the Republican-controlled Legislature – do not comply with the federal Voting Rights Act.

The decision will not affect the November election, as voters in Texas will use interim maps drawn last year by a panel in San Antonio after minority groups filed a lawsuit. The Washington panel addressed the separate issue of whether the maps met requirements of the Voting Rights Act.

Texas is the largest state covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which requires federal approval of any voting changes in states with a history of discrimination.

In the 154-page opinion, author U.S. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith wrote that the state’s attorneys failed to prove that Texas lawmakers did not draw new congressional and state Senate districts without “discriminatory purposes.”

The panel found that important economic areas were stripped from districts that have been historically represented by African Americans, but “no such surgery” was performed on any district belonging to white incumbents.

"Anglo district boundaries were redrawn to include particular country clubs and, in one case, the school belonging to the incumbent's grandchildren," Griffith wrote.

“It is notable that the bi-partisan opinion concluded that intentional discrimination existed in the manner that the State of Texas drew the new Congressional districts for each of the African American representatives from Texas,” stated Texas NAACP State Conference President Gary Bledsoe.

“The opinion quoted each of the three African American Congresspersons in regards to how the economic engines were taken out of their districts, as well as how their Congressional offices were all taken out of the districts drawn by the Legislature. Of important note to the panel was the fact that all white Congresspersons maintained their districts, presenting a stark contrast.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he would appeal the ruling.

"Today's decision extends the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits intended by Congress and beyond the boundaries imposed by the Constitution. The Attorney General's Office will continue defending the maps enacted by the Texas Legislature and will immediately take steps to appeal this flawed decision to the U.S. Supreme Court,” Abbott said in a statement.

"The ruling affirms what we have continuously held true and central to the Voting Rights Act, which is that we will no longer roll over and let others dismantle the core of African American districts. The rights of all communities must be respected," said Rep. Sylvester Turner, who serves as chair of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus.

Read the full text of the decision here: 082812-Redistricting-Aug28

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