AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Taking Texas to court again over voting laws, civil rights groups sued Monday over redrawn U.S. House districts that they allege thwart the political strength of a booming Latino population that is driving the state’s explosive growth.
The federal lawsuit was filed even as Republican lawmakers were still rushing to put final touches on new voting boundaries in Texas, the big winner of the 2020 census — the only state awarded two new seats in Congress.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign off on the changes, which must reach his desk by Tuesday.
The maps that overhaul how Texas’ nearly 30 million residents are sorted into political districts — and who is elected to represent them — bookends a highly charged year in the state over voting rights. Democratic lawmakers twice walked out on an elections bill that tightened the state’s already strict voting rules, which they called a brazen attempt to disenfranchise minorities and other Democratic-leaning voters.
“Texas is using all the means at its disposal to prevent the inevitable change in the Texas electorate,” said Nina Perales, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
Her organization filed the lawsuit along with several other minority rights groups in federal court in Texas. It alleges that Republican mapmakers diluted the political strength of minority voters by not drawing any new districts where Latino residents hold a majority, despite Latinos making up half of Texas’ 4 million new residents over the last decade.
A spokesperson for Abbott, who is named in the lawsuit, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Republicans have said they followed the law in defending the maps, which protect their slipping grip on Texas by pulling more GOP-leaning voters into suburban districts where Democrats have made inroads in recent years.
Texas has been routinely dragged into court for decades over voting maps, and in 2017, a federal court found that a Republican-drawn map was drawn to intentionally discriminate against minority voters. But two years later, that same court said there was insufficient reason to take the extraordinary step of putting Texas back under federal supervision before changing voting laws or maps.