EL PASO, TEXAS, October 18, 2021 – A Latino legal rights organization is suing Texas state officials over newly adopted redistricting maps that violate the federal Voting Rights Act and dilute the voting strength of Latino voters, according to a lawsuit filed today.
MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, El Paso Division, on behalf of individual voters and a coalition of Latino organizations committed to securing fair redistricting plans in that state. The coalition is known as the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force (Task Force).
“Even as we continue our legal challenge to the redistricting maps adopted by an Illinois Legislature controlled by Democrats, MALDEF now challenges Texas maps adopted by a state legislature controlled by Republicans; violation of voting rights is not a partisan issue,” said Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF president and general counsel. “Still, Texas has a uniquely deplorable record in its consistent disregard of Latino population growth over half a century of redistricting.”
The lawsuit asks the federal court to toss out the new maps because the maps are unconstitutional and violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
“Despite having only recently been found liable by a federal court for intentional racial discrimination in redistricting, Texas has once again adopted plans that dilute Latino voting strength,” said Nina Perales, MALDEF VP of Litigation. “The new redistricting plans are an unlawful attempt to thwart the changing Texas electorate and should be struck down.”
According to the complaint, the new maps for Congress, the Texas House of Representatives, the state Senate, and State Board of Education do not reflect the growth of the Latino community.
Between 2010 and 2020, Latinos accounted for half the population growth in the state, which gained two congressional seats as a result of its population growth. But despite the increase in the Latino population, lawmakers failed to increase the current number of Latino-opportunity districts. For example, a second Latino-opportunity congressional district could have been created in Houston but was not.
In addition, the lawsuit alleges that the newly adopted redistricting plan for the State House of Representatives manipulates the district population to weaken Latino voting strength.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Deputy Secretary of State Jose A. Esparza are the named defendants.
The organizational plaintiffs include the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, Mi Familia Vota, American GI Forum, La Union Del Pueblo Entero, Mexican American Bar Association of Texas, Texas Hispanics Organized For Political Education (HOPE), William C. Velasquez Institute, FIEL Houston Inc., and the Texas Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents.
Plaintiffs include individual voters Florinda Chavez of Austin; Joey Cardenas of Louise; Emelda Menendez and Gilberto Menendez of San Antonio; and Jose Olivares of Corpus Christi.
MALDEF has previously successfully challenged racially discriminatory redistricting plans. In 2018, the organization won a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court that Texas unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered its State House plan (Abbott v. Perez). In a 2006 ruling in LULAC v. Perry, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of MALDEF’s claim that the Texas congressional redistricting plan diluted Latino voting strength in violation of the Voting Rights Act.
Read the complaint HERE.
Founded in 1968, MALDEF is the nation’s leading Latino legal civil rights organization. Often described as the “law firm of the Latino community,” MALDEF promotes social change through advocacy, communications, community education, and litigation in the areas of education, employment, immigrant rights, and political access. For more information on MALDEF, please visit: www.maldef.org.