Bloomberg News

Perry Approved Discriminatory Texas Voter Maps, U.S. Says

October 26, 2011

(Updates with Texas AG’s comment in eighth paragraph.)

Oct. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Texas Governor Rick Perry approved new election maps for congressional and state assembly districts that discriminate against Hispanic voters, the U.S. said in a filing urging a federal court to block the plan.

The Justice Department said in a filing yesterday in Washington opposing the state’s request for a ruling in its favor that Texas “purposely manipulated” proposed congressional districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to decrease “current and future” minority voter strength in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

“The state chose not to propose any new additional minority ability-to-elect districts and removed hundreds of thousands of minority voters from districts in which they could elect candidates of choice,” the Justice Department said in the filing. “Under the proposed plan, 479,704 fewer Hispanics will reside in districts in which they have an ability to elect a candidate of choice.”

The U.S. said in court papers that it objects to two proposed congressional districts and five state assembly districts.

‘Discriminatory Purpose’

In preparing the maps, Texas used techniques that “suggest a discriminatory purpose,” such as substituting low-turnout Hispanic voters for higher ones while maintaining a minority population majority, the Justice Department alleges.

A panel of two federal district judges and one appellate judge will hear arguments on the government’s filing and one filed by the state seeking approval of its plans on Nov. 2.

Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed referred questions about the filing to the Texas attorney general’s office.

“Despite their outrageous claims, if one looks behind DOJ’s inflammatory rhetoric, they produce no genuine evidence of discrimination,” Lauren Bean, a spokeswoman for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, said today in an e-mail. “Ironically, DOJ is objecting to districts that the legislature specifically enacted to protect Hispanic incumbents -- who happen to be Republicans -- in the same manner that the legislature worked to protect incumbents of both parties. As a result, what DOJ baselessly labels ‘racial discrimination’ is actually just the legislature’s decision to protect incumbents of a certain party.”

Texas sued the Obama administration in July seeking so- called pre-clearance for the state’s new maps under the U.S. Voting Rights Act, a step required of all states with a history of voting-rights violations.

The majority-Republican Legislature redrew electoral maps after the state grew enough to gain four seats in Congress, adding almost 4.3 million residents since 2000, according to the 2010 census.

Presidential Candidate

Perry, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination, signed the state bill containing the election map created in June by Texas lawmakers.

Congressional representatives whose jobs are threatened by the redistricting plan sued Perry and the state in federal court in San Antonio to block approval of the map, as did Hispanic voting-rights organizations and Travis County, which includes the capital, Austin.

The Texas case is Perez v. Perry, 5:11-cv-0360, U.S. District Court, Western District of Texas (San Antonio). The Washington case is Texas v. the U.S., 1:11-cv-01303, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).

--With assistance from Laurel Brubaker Calkins in Houston. Editors: Michael Hytha, Peter Blumberg

To contact the reporter on this story: Tom Schoenberg in Washington at tschoenberg@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.


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