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Texas seeks preclearance from the courts

This was expected.

Texas bypassed the Obama administration’s Department of Justice on Tuesday, opting to ask a panel of federal judges in Washington, D.C., to review the state’s new maps for congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts.

Attorney General Greg Abbott asked the federal courts to review the new political maps for compliance with Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Here’s a link to his filing.

“The state’s redistricting plans have neither the purpose nor will they have the effect of denying or abridging the right to vote on account of race, color, or membership in a language minority,” the state’s lawyers said in their filing.

Abbott asked the courts for preclearance but also informally filed papers with the Justice Department “to facilitate and expedite disposition of this matter.” Federal law allows the state to choose between the two venues for Section 5 approval. Some lawyers read the dual filing differently than the state does. “The way I read it, the state filed with the Department of Justice and filed a protective lawsuit with the courts,” said Renea Hicks, a veteran of previous redistricting fights who is involved in one of several challenges to the new Texas maps.

The issue, as AG Abbott well knows, is not that anyone is being denied the right to vote by the new maps – that’s what the voter ID law and the efforts of the various vote-suppression groups are for – but that the new maps are not a fair reflection of Texas’ population, especially its population growth, nor do they allow groups protected by the Voting Rights Act an adequate opportunity to elect the candidates of their choice. One of the goals of bypassing the Justice Department is to get the federal courts to narrow or even throw out the Voting Rights Act. Needless to say, this will bear close scrutiny. Greg has more.

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