Even as the country recovers from a series of far-right U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the next big fights are already shaping up. In particular, the court will hear a case that could further erode the Voting Rights Act and disenfranchise Texans of color.
The case is one of many that resulted from the 2021 redistricting following the census. Complications from the COVID pandemic delayed the results, and the process exceeded deadlines for the 2022 primaries. One case came out of Alabama. Filed by Evan Milligan, Khadidah Stone, Letitia Jackson, Shalela Dowdy, Greater Birmingham Ministries and the Alabama State Conference of the NAACP, he claimed the state was deliberately disenfranchising black voters.
A three-judge panel ordered new maps drawn in the January ruling, but the Supreme Court overturned that appeal a month later, saying it was now too close to the election to make new maps. The court voted 5-4, with Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joining the three liberal justices. The case is now scheduled for the fall term, with a decision likely next summer.
It comes nine years after the court ruled that states with a history of racial disenfranchisement, such as Alabama and Texas, no longer need to have their new cards pre-approved to check for discrimination. At the heart of the latest case is whether Provision 2 of the Voting Rights Act covers discriminatory cards even though the cards’ stated purpose was not racial discrimination.
If the court decides that racial discrimination must be openly stated and not just apparent in the final product, Texas will almost certainly be allowed to opt for Republican-drawn maps that eliminate the power of voters of color.
When the redistricting committee, led by state Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), was working on their maps, they were extremely careful to say they weren’t using racial data to redraw the districts.
“I said it, and I’ll say it again – we drew these maps blind,” she told a public hearing. “We didn’t look at any racial data when we drew these maps, and to date I haven’t looked at any racial data.”
However, it’s impossible to miss how the new districts give white voters power over people of color, despite whites only being responsible for 5% of the state’s population growth since the 2010 census. Majority black and Hispanic districts in the Fort Worth area have been carved out and their populations divided into districts where there is a white majority. A similar trick was pulled around Killeen. The state’s single majority black district was eliminated entirely.
The new maps represent a fundamental shift in power, primarily along racial lines, that binds Republicans together, especially in the state Senate. Although former President Donald Trump barely won Texas in 2022 with 52% of the vote, he would have won 61% of the new Senate map by those lines.
That said, if the conservative Supreme Court rules next year that Provision 2 of the Voting Rights Act only covers acts of expressly stated racism, those cards will likely show up in Texas in the 2024 election.