The U.S. Justice Department last week opposed the congressional redistricting map drawn this summer by Republicans in the Texas Legislature, saying it does not meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.
One of the districts in question is District 25, which now includes Somervell County. It currently is represented by Rep. Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat, who pronounced the new map “illegal.”
The 25th District previously was confined to Central Texas and included Hays and part of Travis counties and six counties east of Interstate 35.
After the redistricting process, however, District 25 now stretches from Hays County to part of Travis County and all the way to the Tarrant County line. It includes part of Austin,
Before the legislature redrew district lines during a special legislative session this past summer, Somervell was in District 17 currently represented by Republican Bill Flores, who overwhelmingly carried Somervell County. His district stretched from southern Tarrant County south and eastward to Bryan, following communities of interest along the Brazos River.
Because of Texas’ history of racial discrimination, the federal government requires the state and others in the South to submit its redistricting maps for pre-clearance.
Texas went to a panel of three federal judges in Washington, D.C. rather than the Justice Department. The department made its opposition known in a court filing.
State Republicans said the Justice Department, which now is in Democratic hands under the Obama administration, was “playing politics.”
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 outlawed discriminatory voting practices.
Texas gained four congressional seats this year because of population growth. Much of that growth came from Hispanics and African-Americans. But opponents to the map passed this summer said that blacks and Hispanics lost ground in the new map.
Several minority groups have filed a lawsuit in San Antonio contesting the overall congressional redistricting map as "retrogressive" to minorities.
The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia will hear arguments from the state, civil rights groups and Justice Department lawyers and decide whether the map dilutes minority voting strength. The case is expected to come before the court in late October or November.
But the date for candidates to file in the race is Nov. 12, which puts them in the position of running for seats in districts whose lines may be redrawn.