Latino rights groups sue Gov. Abbott over new redistricting maps

Lawsuit claims new maps violate civil rights, dilute Latino voting strength

SAN ANTONIO – Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Deputy Secretary of State Jose A. Esparza are being sued over new redistricting lines drawn up by the state Legislature.

The lawsuit filed Monday lists 15 plaintiffs, 10 Latino rights organizations, and five individual voters claiming the newly redrawn district maps are unconstitutional.

The new census showed the population in Texas has grown by almost 4 million people since 2010, mainly in urban areas. As a result, Texas gained two congressional seats.

Latinos accounted for half of that population growth.

“The growth was clearly Latino. It was clearly in urban areas, and therefore, you should provide and draw maps that are more compact to those communities,” said state Senator Roland Gutierrez.

Gutierrez and fellow Democrats were upset when the newly drawn maps did not create any new Latino-opportunity districts.

“No surprise, what the Republicans have tried to do is gerrymander districts so they can remain in power. That’s why our maps look like pies, if you will. They start in urban areas, and they blow up into large swaths of rural areas where voters tend to be more Republican,” Gutierrez said.

KSAT Explains: Texas redistricting and battle over redrawing the maps

Gutierrez said the move greatly affects the voters.

“It’s about money that comes to our communities -- what kind of legislative priorities. So if most of the growth is happening around your neighbors and in urban areas, then that’s where those decisions should be made,” he said.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), which filed the suit, said the maps violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and is asking a federal court to toss them out.

On Tuesday, KSAT reached out to multiple state Republicans for comment, but none returned our calls.

Abbott sent a statement Tuesday about the special session as a whole, saying in part: “Property tax relief, appropriating funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), and redrawing legislative districts were at the forefront of the agenda for the third Special Session... I am proud to say not only did we deliver on these priorities, but the Legislature went above and beyond to solve other critical issues.”

Gutierrez said similar lawsuits were filed during the last redistricting planning 10 years ago, and the courts overturned the Republican-drawn maps.

“The relief ultimately was that the courts ended up drawing the maps, and so those maps become more concise, more attune to the statistical tools used for redistricting in an impartial manner,” he said.

Gutierrez and his colleagues hope that will happen again and quickly as the November election approaches.

“It could happen by the election. They could say, as they’ve said in the past, ‘We need more time. You need to run on your old maps,” he said.

Early voting is already underway for the November election. Click here for more information.

About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

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