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Republican officials in Texas are challenging a federal law they believe has been manipulated to benefit Democratic candidates. The dispute centers around a 2021 redistricting plan in Galveston County that broke up a majority-black and Hispanic precinct. The county claims the plan is lawful under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which is intended to protect the rights of racial and ethnic minority voters. The case is being heard in the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans.

Galveston County Judge Mark Henry argues that the precinct was racially gerrymandered for political gain and that there are several coalition districts across the South that have been similarly affected. The outcome of this case could have broader implications beyond Texas, potentially allowing Republican-led states to revisit their maps at various levels of government, as coalition districts are also present at the state and local levels. The impact of the Fifth Circuit’s ruling could lead to a circuit split and be elevated to the Supreme Court for a final decision.

The case involves a specific district in Galveston County, but if the Fifth Circuit were to rule against coalition districts, it could affect at least five other districts in Texas represented by Democrats. The current Republican majority in the House is slim, with Democrats controlling the Senate by just four votes. The implications of this case are being closely monitored, as the outcome could shape future redistricting efforts across the country, not just in Texas.

The National Republican Redistricting Trust believes that the Fifth Circuit will align with a previous Supreme Court ruling in Bartlett v. Strickland, which outlined the requirements for creating coalition districts under the Voting Rights Act. The issue at hand is whether the Act mandates the creation of coalition districts or leaves it to the discretion of jurisdictions. A ruling against coalition districts in the Fifth Circuit would have to be significant enough to impact other jurisdictions beyond Galveston.

President Biden’s Justice Department filed a lawsuit against Galveston County in March 2022, alleging that the new district map violated the Voting Rights Act by discriminating against black and Hispanic voters. The DOJ’s case was successful in a federal district court, resulting in a new district map being adopted before the 2024 election. The Fifth Circuit held initial hearings on the case and imposed a stay on the district ruling, indicating favorable support for the GOP officials’ arguments.

The case highlights the ongoing debate around the interpretation of the Voting Rights Act and the use of coalition districts in redistricting efforts. It also raises questions about political motivations and the impact of redistricting on minority communities. The ultimate ruling by the full Fifth Circuit later this year is expected to provide clarity on the legality of coalition districts and their role in future electoral processes across the country.

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