A federal court has ruled that one of San Antonio's five Congressional districts is illegal because it was drawn as part of an 'impermissable racial gerrymander,' News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
In a 107 page ruling, the three judge panel which has been examining the status of the state's political districts, says the 35th District, which is represented by Democrat Lloyd Doggett, must be redrawn before the March primary.
Unless the Legislature moves quickly to agree to redraw the district, the court will appoint an independent panel to redraw the district, using criteria set up by the court.The court also invalidated the design of the state's 27th Congressional District, which is represented by Republican Blake Farenthold of Corpus Christi.
The justices, acting on lawsuits filed by Hispanic rights groups dating back to 2013, says the two districts were specifically designed by Republicans to "intentionally deprive Hispanic voters of the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice."
The 35th District, which snakes from East Austin down Interstate 35 into San Antonio, is one of the most distorted Congressional districts in the entire country.
Planitiffs say it was intentionally drawn that way due to what experts call 'packing and cracking.' That is jamming as many minority voters into a district as possible to free up largely Republican Anglo voters to be a majority in multiple other districts, and to 'crack' apart tight minority communities as a way to make them not a minority in the district and dilute their voting strength.
The state argued that since ethnicity and political preference is so closely aligned in Texas, with Anglos generally supporting Republicans and Blacks and Hispanics largely backing Democrats, the districts were drawn for maximum political advantage, which is legal, and not along racial lines, which is not legal.
The judges did decide to leave another local Congressional district alone. It ruled the sprawling 23rd district, which stretches from west San Antonio to El Paso and has been redrawn multiple times over the past two decades, is in fact a "Hispanic opportunity district" and does not have to be changed. That district is represented by Republican Will Hurd.