Federal judges ruled late Friday that three congressional districts in Texas had been victim to racial gerrymandering, with the areas mapped out specifically to put minorities at a disadvantage in the polls. In a 2-1 decision, the three-judge panel in San Antonio deemed the districts – two of which are held by Republicans – invalid, though the decision can still be appealed in the U.S. Supreme Court. “The record indicates not just a hostility toward Democrat districts, but a hostility to minority districts, and a willingness to use race for partisan advantage,” U.S. District Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia wrote about their ruling. The maps were approved back in 2011 by the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature, at a time of “strong racial tension and heated debate about Latinos, Spanish-speaking people, undocumented immigrants and sanctuary cities,” the judges said.
U.S. Circuit Judge Jerry Smith, who ruled against invalidating the congressional districts, lashed out at the Obama administration in his decision. He said Justice Department attorneys who’d investigated gerrymandering had viewed state officials as “a bunch of backwoods hayseed bigots who bemoan the abolition of the poll tax and pine for the days of literacy tests and lynchings.” The Obama administration had earlier challenged the congressional maps and forced authorities to weaken the state’s tough voter ID law, which critics said made it harder for minorities to vote. But after President Trump took office, the federal government said it would no longer view the voter ID law as discriminatory. The congressional districts currently belong to Democrat Lloyd Doggett and Republicans Will Hurd and Blake Farenthold.