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Justice Department sues Texas over GOP-drawn voting maps

Attorney General Merrick Garland said the state’s new maps "deny or abridge the rights of Latino and Black voters."

The Justice Department sued Monday in federal court challenging Texas Republicans' plan for redrawing congressional and state legislative districts based on new census figures.

The lawsuit alleges that the state’s new maps, in violation of the Voting Rights Act, “deny or abridge the rights of Latino and Black voters to vote on account of their race, color or membership in a language minority group," Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a news conference.

The maps were drawn withdiscriminatory intent in some places, in a rushed process and with an "overall disregard" for the fact that Texas' population growth has been driven almost entirely by Black and Hispanic residents, Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said, speaking after Garland. The suit asks the court to stop the state from using the new maps.

"Our investigation determined that Texas' redistricting plans will dilute the increased minority voting strength that should have developed from these significant demographic shifts," Gupta said.

Texas was allocated two more congressional seats after the 2020 census, but it did not draw a single new district with a majority of Black or Hispanic voters. The two new seats have white voting majorities, Gupta said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton lashed out at the suit on Twitter from his office's official account, calling it "absurd" and "the Biden Administration's latest ploy to control Texas voters."

"I am confident that our legislature's redistricting decisions will be proven lawful, and this preposterous attempt to sway democracy will fail," his office wrote.

It is the second lawsuit the Justice Department has filed against Texas this fall. Last month, the Justice Department alleged in a lawsuit that Texas' new voting law, S.B. 1, made it harder to assist voters with disabilities or without English proficiency.

Throughout the year, Garland has urged Congress to pass voting legislation, in particular to restore the parts of the Voting Rights Act that required jurisdictions with histories of discrimination to clear election changes through the Justice Department before they enact them. The Supreme Court gutted the provision in 2013, ruling that the formula for determining which jurisdictions were included was unconstitutional.

“I want to again urge Congress to restore the Justice Department's preclearance authority," Garland said Monday. "Were that preclearance tool still in place, we would likely not be here today announcing this complaint."