HOUSTON — Why is this the first time in nearly 50 years Texas is redrawing its congressional map without federal oversight?
Under the Voting Rights Act, some states with a history of discrimination against minority voters had to get federal approval for any changes to elections laws including redistricting. According to election experts that oversight was a moderating force in states like Texas.
According to NPR, if Texas Republicans went too extreme with gerrymandering a panel of judges or the U.S. Justice Department could throw out the maps all together.
But in 2010, Alabama challenged this section of the Voting Rights Act and three years later the Supreme court sided with them. The court said conditions had changed since the 1960s when those protections were put in place.
With that ruling, portions of the Voting Rights Act were struck down and states like Texas no longer had someone watching over their shoulder while redrawing maps.
That doesn’t mean redistricting can’t be challenged for being discriminatory. But now the plan must go into effect before it can be brought to court. And you must show that the redistricting dilutes the minority vote.
Political gerrymandering is okay so you can redraw the map to favor one party over the other, but discriminating based on race or ethnicity is not.
Signals have already been sent that legal challenges will be filed against Texas’ new maps.