updated 12/19/2003 7:42:34 PM ET 2003-12-20T00:42:34

The U.S. Department of Justice approved a Republican-backed congressional redistricting map Friday, disappointing Democrats who staged two legislative boycotts over redistricting and have sued over the new plan.

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The department evaluated the map to see if it adhered to the federal Voting Rights Act, a law that protects minority voting rights.

“The Department of Justice determined that the State of Texas provided sufficient proof that the proposed congressional districts do not deny or abridge the right to vote on account of race or color,” according to a statement from Texas Secretary of State Geoff Connor. “We will now wait to hear from the three-judge panel regarding the federal court case brought against the new map.”

The approval comes as a three-judge panel in Austin hears the legal challenges by Democrats to the map, which the Texas Legislature approved in October.

The new map could give the party as many as seven additional seats in the delegation that is ruled 17-15 by Democrats.

Republicans wanted more GOP districts, they said, to better reflect Texas’ increasingly conservative voting trends. Republicans hold every statewide-elected post and rule both the state Senate and House.

Democrats object to the new map, saying the districts hurt minority and rural Texans.

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