A three-judge federal district court, which earlier had found that Texas engaged in intentional racial discrimination against African-Americans and Latinos in passing its 2011 redistricting plan has refused to put Texas back under federal supervision for voting.
Before the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, Texas had to submit all changes in its voting rules for federal approval (or preclearance) before making those changes. The state had to demonstrate that the changes would not make protected minority voters worse off. Shelby County held that this preclearance regime in Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional because it was based upon outdated data about which jurisdictions were engaged in intentional racial discrimination.
But another part of the Voting Rights Act, section 3c, allowed courts to put states back under such preclearance for up to 10 years upon a finding of intentional racial discrimination.
Today’s court found that Texas had engaged in racial discrimination. But given the Supreme Court’s finding that Texas cured its racial discrimination in the 2013 plan, and the general hesitancy of courts to impose this “bail in remedy,” the court declined bail in. The court added, however: “To be clear, however, the Court has grave concerns about Texas’s past conduct. During the 2011 legislative session, Texas engaged in traditional means of vote dilution such as cracking and packing in drawing districts, and also utilized newer methods of dilution and suppression such as using the “nudge factor” and passing voter ID requirements.”
This is a major victory for Texas and a major loss for voting rights plaintiffs as we head into the 2021 round of redistricting. I’ll have more to say about this ruling at a later time.