WASHINGTON - The U.S. Justice Department sued the southwestern state of Texas on Monday, alleging that Republican state lawmakers discriminated against Latinos and other minorities by redrawing new congressional and state legislative districts to increase the voting power of white Texans.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the lawsuit, the Justice Department's first major legal action since states throughout the country started reshaping their voting districts after the conclusion of the 2020 census.
FILE - Attorney General Merrick Garland speaks at the Justice Department in Washington, Oct. 22, 2021.
Texas, the second-biggest U.S. state, with nearly 30 million people, grew dramatically since the last census in 2010, adding nearly 4 million residents. As a result, the state gained two more seats in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives.
Most of that population growth was among minorities; white Texans accounted for about 5% of the growth.
But the Justice Department alleged in the lawsuit that the Republican lawmakers had redrawn the congressional boundaries in a way that would disadvantage minority voters, who generally have voted for Democrats.
The U.S. Supreme Court has not blocked politically partisan drawing of legislative districts, but shaping them in a way that unfairly puts racial and ethnic minorities at a disadvantage is illegal.
'This is not the first time Texas has acted to minimize the voting rights of its minority citizens,' the lawsuit contended. 'Decade after decade, Texas has enacted redistricting plans that violate the Voting Rights Act.'
On Twitter, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the lawsuit 'absurd.'
'I am confident that our legislature's redistricting decisions will be proven lawful, and this preposterous attempt to sway democracy will fail,' he wrote.
The lawsuit is the second time in a little over a month that the Justice Department has sued Texas in a voting-related case. The federal government earlier claimed that a new state law would disenfranchise eligible voters, including older Americans and people with disabilities, by banning 24-hour and drive-thru voting.