MALDEF PROTECTS CREATION OF NEW LATINO-MAJORITY CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT IN FILINGS WITH WASHINGTON, D.C. COURT
Brief challenges request that would have effect of eliminating new Latino-majority congressional district
SAN ANTONIO, TX – Yesterday, MALDEF, on behalf of the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, filed a brief at the request of the federal court in Washington, D.C. that is evaluating the Texas redistricting plans for compliance with the Voting Rights Act. In the brief, MALDEF defends the creation of a new Latino-majority congressional district in South/Central Texas that has been challenged as unconstitutional by certain parties in the redistricting litigation.
MALDEF President and General Counsel, Thomas A. Saenz, stated, "The Voting Rights Act protects and requires the creation of districts in which a minority community has the ability to elect candidates that the community chooses. Given a demonstrated history of divergence between the candidate choices of Latino and white communities, MALDEF cannot advocate the retention of a white-majority district where, as here, that retention would threaten the survival of a Latino-majority district."
The new Congressional District 35 was created by the federal court in San Antonio Texas as part of the redistricting plan it ordered into effect for the 2012 elections. The San Antonio court, under instructions from the U.S. Supreme Court to defer to the State's redistricting plans where they are legal, restored all of the pre-existing Latino opportunity districts in the Texas congressional plan and, in recognition of the significant growth of Latinos in Texas since 2000, added two more Latino-majority districts – CD 35 in South/Central Texas and CD 33 in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex. Both of the two new Latino-majority congressional districts have been challenged by other litigants in the redistricting litigation.
The Washington, D.C. federal court is evaluating the districts in the congressional redistricting plan enacted by the State of Texas in June 2011 for compliance with the Voting Rights Act. The Washington, D.C. court has asked specifically for additional views of the parties on the status under the Voting Rights Act of the Anglo-majority CD 25 which encompasses a portion of Travis County and seven additional whole counties in Central Texas.
In its filing yesterday, MALDEF and the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force responded to a challenge by certain parties in the litigation that the new Latino-majority CD 35 is prohibited by a requirement under the Voting Rights Act to preserve CD 25. Because it is majority-Anglo and Anglo voters constitute the majority of turnout in both the Democratic and Republican primary elections, the district is not required to be created by the courts under the Voting Rights Act. Although the Texas Legislature could have drawn a Democratic-leaning congressional district based in Austin on policy grounds, it was not legally required by the Voting Rights Act or the Constitution.
By contrast, "the nearby CD 35 is required by the Voting Rights Act to reflect the growth of Latinos in South and Central Texas. The new CD 35 is majority-minority and has a higher African American and higher Latino population than CD 25," explained Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation for MALDEF. She added, "The Task Force opposes the attempt by incumbents and others to subvert the Voting Rights Act and dismantle any of the nine Latino opportunity districts in the interim congressional plan."
Yesterday's filing by MALDEF and the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force makes clear that any protection afforded to CD 25 should not diminish the gains made by minority voters in CD 35 and CD 33, where minorities are now free to nominate and elect candidates of their choice.
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.
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