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For Immediate Release
Date: Monday, January 9, 2012
Contact: Matthew Morgan – 202-226-5543
Conyers, Jackson Lee: Supreme Court Should Protect Minority Voting Rights in Texas Redistricting Case
(WASHINGTON) – Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a consolidated case involving recent changes to Texas’ congressional district map. According to the 2010 census, Texas gained more than 4 million new residents with much of the growth occurring in the state’s African American and Latino population. Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), Texas must seek preclearance from the Department of Justice for changes to its congressional district map to ensure against retrogression – that minority voters are not worse off under the new plans. However, rather than seeking an administrative review through DOJ, Texas chose to seek approval for the new plans through a Three-Judge Court in Washington, DC.
In a separate action under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, a Three-Judge Court in Texas found that the new congressional map proposed by the Texas legislature actually reduced the number of “minority opportunity districts” – districts in which minorities constitute at least 50% of the voting age population and may elect a candidate of their choice – as required under the VRA. The ultimate issue before the Court is what districting configuration the lower court should have referred to when ordering the interim electoral map to be used in this round of legislative elections in Texas this year.
“The Supreme Court should act to ensure that minority voters there have an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” said House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich). “The lower court found evidence of discriminatory intent and that the maps proposed by the legislature appear to deny minority voters the opportunity to elect candidates of their choice. The Court should not stand in the way of legal proceedings that will bring these facts into the open or delay the rights of minority voters.”
"Texas is a richly diverse state, and the new congressional map should reflect the large influence of Texans of Hispanic, African-American, and Asian descent, not weaken their voices,” said Representative Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Texas). “Our state's gains in congressional seats are the direct result of minority growth, and the new congressional map should reflect this reality."
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