Voter Suppression

Texas Congressional Districts Ruled Unconstitutional

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

A three-judge panel of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas ruled yesterday evening that two congressional districts in south and central Texas are unconstitutional.

The court was very clear in stating that the state's unconstitutional districts intentionally disenfranchised voters.

The judges found that Hispanic voters in Congressional District 27, represented by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Corpus Christi, were "intentionally deprived of their opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice." Congressional District 35 — a Central Texas district represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett of Austin — was deemed "an impermissible racial gerrymander" because lawmakers illegally used race as the predominant factor in drawing it, the judges wrote.


The panel, in San Antonio, ruled that state officials had adopted the map in question in 2013 as part of a deliberate strategy to maintain “discrimination or unconstitutional effects” while preventing voters from challenging those effects. If Texas legislators do not begin a redistricting process, the court will hold a hearing on Sept. 5 to discuss remedies.

Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general, said in a statement that his office would ask the United States Supreme Court to hear the case. Opponents of the districts that the court upheld could also seek Supreme Court review.

It's anyone guess if the Supreme Court will agree to review the lower court ruling, but the Supreme Court did recently reject a review of congressional districts in North Carolina that were ruled unconstitutional under very similar circumstances.

In that event, the earliest the Supreme Court could review the case would be next Spring with a ruling released next Summer. With elections following just six months after a hypothetical ruling, it's not clear to me if that makes it more or less likely that the court will review the case.

If the Supreme Court does not review the case, the congressional districts will be redrawn next month.

If we're lucky, representative and duck-pajamas enthusiast Blake Farenthold will be redrawn out of office. I don't expect Farenthold (pictured above) will challenge any sitting judges to an "Aaron Burr-style" duel. You know, to settle matters once and for all.

  • muselet

    The court ordered the Texas Attorney General’s Office to indicate within three business days whether the Texas Legislature would take up redistricting to fix those violations. Otherwise, the state and its legal foes will head back to court on Sept. 5 to begin re-drawing the congressional map.


    Ahead of the ruling, Republicans in Austin expressed no appetite to undertake a special session devoted to redistricting.

    [link omitted]

    So a court-drawn map it is. Expect ringing denunciations of Liberal Activist Judges! to ensue.

    And this limb looks sturdy enough to climb out on: I predict the Supremes will punt on this, either without comment or by claiming a full docket. I figure most of them don’t want to get sucked into a debate over free and fair elections.


  • Draxiar

    I have a hard time seeing gerrymandering as anything but loopholing democracy and tilting elections.

    • Dread_Pirate_Mathius

      To be fair, Democrats do it, too, when they have the change.

      They just don’t do it do disenfranchise minorities because, well, the minorities are on our side.

      We need an actual solution to this nonsense gerymandering is terrible for Democracy.

      • Christopher Foxx

        We need an actual solution to this nonsense gerymandering

        Simple. Set a basic algorithm and let a computer do it:
        Using straight lines, divide the state up into equal size districts.
        Bend the lines to the smallest degree necessary to get equal numbers of people in each district.
        Allow minor adjustments to move district lines to natural boundaries such as rivers, highways, county lines.

        That’s just off the top of my head so is obviously rough. But a solution to the “gerrymandering” problem is extremely easy if you take the politics out of it.

        (Of course, taking the politics out is the hard part….)

      • Draxiar

        Agreed. I don’t like it when Democrats do it either and there has to be some neutral solution to it.