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Redistricting plaintiffs go for Section 3

It’s a brand new world out there.

Minority-rights groups are charting “new territory” in the fight against Texas’ redistricting plan, using a provision of the Voting Rights Act that cites discriminatory intent as part of an effort to maintain federal oversight of the state’s congressional maps.

The NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens filed a motion here Tuesday, asking that Texas again be placed under federal requirements for changes made to voting maps, per Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act.

State authorities labeled the move a “desperate effort” following recent Supreme Court decisions that strike down regulatory provisions of the 1965 act.

Luis Vera, a LULAC lawyer in San Antonio, said that because Section 3 was untouched by the court, it allows any state to be subject to federal preclearance if discriminatory intent or a demonstrated effort to disenfranchise is found in new voting laws or maps.

Last August, a D.C. court panel found Texas intentionally discriminated against minorities when it adopted new redistricting maps.

The ruling rejected the state’s claim that the changes did not require Justice Department preclearance approval.

The D.C. court ruling was vacated last month, following the Supreme Court’s decision.

Vera said that while the Supreme Court ruling was a huge blow, consideration of Section 3 by the court would give hope of a remedy to groups.

“We are still in the game,” he said.

Vera conceded that the claim of discrimination must now be proved by the groups filing the motion, whereas the state previously had to prove it did not discriminate when it changed laws or maps.

“In the past, the burden was on the state. Now, the burden is on us,” Vera said. “The good thing for us is that the D.C. court already found discriminatory intent.”

As noted, there are already Section 3 claims before the San Antonio court. The burden may be higher for the plaintiffs now, but Lord knows there’s no shortage of evidence – correct me if I’m wrong here, but I believe the state of Texas has never successfully defended any of its decennial redistricting efforts. There’s definitely reason for hope here, and that’s before we get into the Section 2 claims that are also being pressed.

Needless to say, Texas Redistricting has been all over this:

San Antonio court starts process for deciding if Texas should preclear maps under section 3 of Voting Rights Act, from July 1.

Section 3 and the 2013 Texas maps: How this might work, also from July 1.

Bail-in claim for Texas under section 3 also filed in D.C. court, from July 3. Note that the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus and Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force are not part of the new motion before the DC court, though they could join later if they want to, or they could file their own separate motions.

Q&A on the new section 3 claim about Texas redistricting, also from July 3. The answer to pretty much every question you might ask right now is “it’s unclear at this time” because this is all entirely new legal territory.

Press round up: Maneuvering on Texas redistricting & voter ID, from July 8. Be sure also to read this Election Law Blog post about how Section 3 could be an “easy, but powerful” way to amend the Voting Rights Act.

On Friday, a whole bunch more complaints were filed with the San Antonio court, regarding the maps that were passed in the special session, and including Section 3 claims. The state has till the 19th to respond. We’ll see how it goes from here.

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3 Comments

  1. [...] the whole thing. The plaintiffs there had already filed Section 3 motions, and it was not clear at the time if the Justice Department would be joining them. Now we know, and [...]

  2. [...] there all along, it was just not needed in Texas before now. All that’s happened is that the plaintiffs and now the Justice Department have filed motions with the federal courts that argue Texas should [...]

  3. [...] the state of Texas have filed briefs arguing that the state should still be subject to preclearance under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. They have been joined in this motion by the Justice Department. Last Monday was the deadline for [...]

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