Judges invalidate three gerrymandered congressional districts in Texas

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The judges in a San Antonio federal district court concluded in a 2-1 vote late Friday that the drawing of some of the state's congressional districts violated the federal Voting Rights Act or the US Constitution. The majority ruled the districts, drawn in 2011, violated both the 14th Amendment and the federal Voting Rights Act.

The other two invalidated districts include Republican Congressman Will Hurd's District 23 and Republican Congressman Blake Farenthold's District 27.

"The record indicates not just a hostility toward Democrat districts, but a hostility to minority districts, and a willingness to use race for partisan advantage", U.S. District Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia wrote in their opinion.

"Defendants' decision to place Nueces County Hispanic voters in an Anglo district had the effect and was meant to dilute their opportunity to elect their candidate of choice", said the 196-page ruling, including a dissent by Justice Jerry Smith. Federal courts have taken it upon themselves to draw districts with majority black or Hispanic voters to make it more likely that a minority candidate will succeed. The court said Republicans in charge of redistricting packed Doggett's district with Hispanics, creating fewer Democratic districts.

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The order also did not specify how the invalidated maps should be corrected, but normal practice would be to have the Texas Legislature redraw the congressional lines, Li said.

Texas may still challenge the ruling at the U.S. Supreme Court, but the decision gives Democrats hope that they can turn flip more districts in 2018.

Paxton also could ask the panel to halt the effect of its ruling while the appeal proceeded.

Texas Democrats called the ruling a victory for voting rights.

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Texas' political landscape could soon look a bit different.

"Texas redistricting in 2011 was essentially about politics, not race".

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court ordered a lower court to reconsider whether the gerrymandering of the state's legislative districts discriminated against African-Americans by attempting to dilute their political influence.

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