The Supreme Court of the United States just dealt a huge blow to Texas Republicans, issuing an order denying the request of three Texas lawmakers seeking to avoid Justice Department subpoenas.
In a suit filed in December 2021, the Department of Justice alleges Republican-drawn legislative maps — based on the 2020 Census — intentionally suppressed the voting rights of Black and Hispanic voters in violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act that:
“Prohibits voting practices or procedures that discriminate on the basis of race, color, or membership in one of the language minority groups identified in Section 4(f)(2) of the Act. Most of the cases arising under Section 2 since its enactment involved challenges to at-large election schemes, but the section’s prohibition against discrimination in voting applies nationwide to any voting standard, practice, or procedure that results in the denial or abridgement of the right of any citizen to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority group. Section 2 is permanent and has no expiration date as do certain other provisions of the Voting Rights Act.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that the three representatives – Ryan Guillen, Bronks Landgraf, and John Lujan – were protected under legislative privilege and that their testimony would “probe the very inner workings of the legislative process, examining the legislators’ thoughts, impressions, and motivations in their legislative acts.” Paxton further stated in the request that forcing them to sit for depositions:
“Transgresses the centuries-old legislative immunity and privilege conferred upon state legislators— deemed ‘so essential for representatives of the people’ that they were inscribed in nearly every State’s constitution.”
The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed.
According to the 2020 Census, the DOJ claims that Texas’ population grew by almost four million people between the 2010 and 2020 Census counts – 95% of that growth coming from minorities. The Census also shows that non-Latino White Texans account for less than 40% of the State’s population. The Justice Department claims that, when redrawing electoral maps, the State “refused to recognize the State’s growing minority electorate.”
This caused minority seats to be lost when there actually should have been more districts gained representing the Latino electorate. The DOJ complaint went on to say:
“Texas also eliminated Latino electoral opportunities in the State House plan through manipulation or outright elimination of districts where Latino communities previously had elected their preferred candidates. In the San Antonio region and in South Texas, Texas replaced Latinos in House Districts 118 and 31 with high-turnout Anglo voters, eliminating minority electoral opportunities. And in El Paso and West Texas, the State eliminated a Latino opportunity district entirely—reducing the number of districts in which Latinos make up a citizen voting-age population majority from six to five—by overpopulating and packing majority-Latino districts and under-populating nearby majority-Anglo districts.”
With midterms around the corner and GOP voter suppression efforts at an all-time high, the Supreme Court’s decision is a huge win for marginalized voters — and for those fighting on their behalf. Let’s hope this precedent holds.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick
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