RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — In response to a new statehouse districting map that lowers the number of Latino-majority districts, a Mexican American advocacy group will argue to the Texas Supreme Court that the redistricting is unconstitutional.

The Texas Supreme Court is set to hear arguments from the Mexican American Legislative Caucus (MALC) on the issue on Wednesday. MALC members are challenging that the redistricted maps violate the “county line rule” in the Texas Constitution.

A new map outlining Texas’s statehouse and Congressional districts was put together in late 2021 using 2020 U.S. Census data and immediately drew the ire of Democrats and minority organizations.

Legal battles are challenging that the new district lines discriminate against people of color by diminishing the number of districts controlled minority voters.

MALC leaders believe legislatures redistricted areas that normally draw mostly Democratic voters to contain areas mostly controlled by Republican voters.

One example of this was the redistricting of Texas’s 6th congressional district, which absorbed an urban, mostly Hispanic area formerly in the 33rd district to become a part of a rural, mostly white district with a majority of Republican voters. This swing hypothetically would have given former President Donald Trump a 21 percent increase in votes in the 2020 Presidential Election.

2020 Census data reveals that 95 percent of Texas’s population growth was from people of color. Despite this, statehouse districts with a majority of POC residents shrunk from 40 to 34. Latino majority seats shrunk from 33 to 30.

The MALC believes this was done by the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature to discriminate and dilute the Latino vote. They claim the new districting maps violate the Civil Rights Act of 1965, the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, and parts of the Texas Constitution.

Specifically, the MALC is arguing that the maps violate the Texas Constitution’s “county line rule” that requires the state’s legislature to follow certain guidelines in regards to counties when creating district maps. These requirements are:

  1. a county with sufficient population for exactly one district must be formed into a single district;
  2. a county with a population smaller than the population needed for a whole district must be kept whole and combined with one or more contiguous counties to form a district;
  3. a county that has sufficient population for two or more whole districts must be divided into that number of districts, with no district extending into another county; and
  4. each county with a population sufficient for one or more whole districts plus a fraction of another district must be divided into that many whole districts, with the excess population added to one or more contiguous counties to form an additional district.

However, the Texas legislature’s official redistricting info sheet states that courts have allowed lawmakers to bypass these requirements on different occasions in order to create equally populated house districts.

The MALC brought these issues to federal court in November 2021. In their lawsuit, MALC officials note that Texas lawmakers creating districts that suppress minority voters is not a new claim.

They cite previous legal findings that suggest Texas has violated the Voting Rights Act through gerrymandering in every redistricting cycle since 1970. One such case was in 2006 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Texas Legislature bore the “mark of intentional discrimination” when districts followed a similar pattern of suppressing Latino voters.

MALC’s lawsuit against Texas also points out transparency issues with the redistricting process, such as providing short notices for the public to view the plan before it was approved, rejecting complaints raised by concerned citizens in hearings, and adjourning for one minute to create a new legislative work day around the three-day rule in the Texas Constitution.

State attorneys have filed for a dismissal of the MALC lawsuit, which is one of several they are facing from advocacy groups. Texas officials state the MALC’s claim of a gerrymandered system is baseless and “implausible.” Attorneys also argue that MALC does not hold an organizational standing to sue on behalf of Latinos.

The case has been transferred from the U.S. District Court – Western District of Texas to the Texas Supreme Court where a special three-judge panel will hear arguments on the case from both sides.