Credit: Michael Gonzalez/The Texas Tribune

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The U.S. Department of Justice is throwing its weight into the legal fight over Texas’ newly drawn maps for Congress and the state House.

The Biden administration on Monday announced it has filed a lawsuit in federal court in Texas, joining what’s expected to be a protracted fight over the political boundaries the state will use for elections to come. It joins a collection of individual voters and organizations representing voters of color that have already sued the state over maps that help solidify the GOP’s dominance while weakening the influence of voters of color.

The maps face at least five legal challenges based on claims that the districts drawn by the Texas Legislature are unconstitutional and violate the federal Voting Rights Act because they dilute the voting strength of voters of color.

The announcement signals that the administration is taking a more significant role in the state’s redistricting fight after the Trump administration switched sides in favor of the state at the tail end of litigation over the last round of redistricting, which also landed the state in federal court over similar allegations.

The Republican-controlled Legislature this year took on the work of redistricting to incorporate a decade of population growth into the state’s maps and equalize the population of districts.

The congressional map reduces the number of districts with a Hispanic voting majority from eight to seven, while the number of districts with Black residents as the majority of eligible voters drops from one to zero. Republicans also opted to give white voters effective control of the two new congressional districts the state gained because of its explosive population growth, 95% of which is attributable to people of color. Half of the 4 million residents the state gained in the past 10 years were Hispanic.

The state House map, meanwhile, drops the number of districts in which Hispanics make up the majority of eligible voters from 33 to 30.

Decade after decade, including after the 2011 redistricting cycle, the state has faced allegations — and subsequent federal court rulings — that lawmakers discriminated against voters of color, intentionally working to undermine the power of their votes.

The Texas Tribune

The Texas Tribune is the only member-supported, digital-first, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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