AUSTIN – Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton disagreed with a ruling made by federal judges claiming Republican lawmakers used gerrymandering when redrawing congressional district lines and lessening the voting power of minorities.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Documented in a 194-page opinion, The U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas stated Republican-controlled legislation passed in 2011 had drawn lines which discriminated against Black and Hispanics voters. The opinion cited districts in south and west Texas, and the boundaries of north Texas as examples of gerrymandering.

In a 2-1 decision, the judges stated the mapmakers were in violation of the 1965 Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment for diluting the voting strength of minorities with intentional dilution in the Dallas, Fort Worth, and El Paso areas.

The ruling invalidates the districts in question. At the time, the judges have not suggested a remedy for the situation.

Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia wrote in the opinion, “The Court finds that this evidence persuasively demonstrates that mapdrawers intentionally packed [concentrated certain populations] and cracked [diluted certain populations] on the basis of race (using race as a proxy for voting behavior) with the intent to dilute minority voting strength.”

However, Judge Jerry Smith of the U.S. 5th Circuit Court, who split the decision, had a dissenting opinion stating, "The Department of Justice has overplayed its hand and, in the process, has lost credibility," Smith wrote. "The wound is self-inflicted. The grand theory on which its intervention was mainly based—that invidious racial motives infect and predominate in the drawing of the 2011 district lines—has crashed and burned. I respectfully dissent from the refusal to dismiss for want of jurisdiction."

“We respectfully disagree with the redistricting panel’s majority decision," Paxton said in a press release. "As 5th Circuit Judge Jerry Smith observed in his dissent, the challenge to the old 2011 maps - which were never in effect - is moot. The maps currently in use are not the ones adopted by the Texas Legislature in 2011, which are the subject of the court’s opinion.”

Paxton continued, “The Legislature adopted the court drawn 2012 maps in 2013. The court was under a direct order from the Supreme Court to draw lawful districts. The adoption of those maps in 2013 mooted any issue with the 2011 maps. There are no lines to redraw. Accordingly, we are confident we will prevail in this case.”

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Texas Office of the Attorney General U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

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