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Judges skeptical of Texas in redistricting case

•  National News     updated  2012/02/01 09:29


Three federal judges weighing the legality of Texas' new political maps reacted with skepticism Tuesday when the state's lawyer suggested the intent of the redrawn boundaries was to maximize the influence of Republicans, not to minimize the influence of minorities.

The U.S. Justice Department and a coalition of minority groups contend the legislative and congressional maps the Texas Legislature drew last year recut districts in a way meant to dilute the state's burgeoning minority voting population. They say the maps violate a section of the Voting Rights Act that requires states with a history of racially discriminatory voting practices to get so-called "pre-clearance" from the Justice Department before making electoral changes.

Texas is gaining four congressional seats this year due to population readjustments made in the 2010 census. That has increased the redistricting stakes, with Hispanics and Democrats often clashing with the GOP-controlled Legislature about how the lines should be drawn.

John Hughes, a lawyer for Texas, which is seeking to keep the maps in place, said during closing arguments before a Washington federal court panel that the maps were the result of partisan gerrymandering that didn't violate federal law. He argued that "a decision based on partisanship" is not based on race, even if it results in minority voters having less political influence.


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