State redistricting trial underway in Washington, D.C.

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by JESSICA VESS

KVUE News

Posted on January 17, 2012 at 3:33 PM

AUSTIN -- The trial over Texas' voting maps is underway in Washington, D.C.

Federal district judges are deciding whether the state drawn maps are fair. The judges are reviewing permanent maps that lawmakers passed in the last legislative session. 
 
Federal law says states with a history of discrimination cannot change voting procedures or districts without getting approval from the Justice Department or a Federal Court in Washington. Texas is among those states.
 
The recent changes were developed upon the release of the latest census numbers. It shows that the Texas population grew by roughly four million people. The growth earned Texas four new seats in the U.S. House. However, some argue the new election districts drawn up to create those new districts don’t represent those within the growing population. Most are Latinos or African Americans.
 
"The map gerrymanders more than nine million Latinos in Texas to make sure that we have no more electoral opportunity than we did in 1991," said Vice President for Litigation for MALDEF, the Texas Latino Redistricting Task force, Nina Perales.
 
MALDEF is among several groups actively fighting the maps. Others included the NAACP and the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
 
State Senator Wendy Davis, D-Ft. Worth, is also against the maps. She is flying to Washington, D.C. Tuesday afternoon and is expected to testify at the trial.
 
The eight-day trial is scheduled to last until Jan. 26, with closing arguments expected in early February.
 
Until the judges reach a decision on the approval of the permanent maps, the Texas primary waits in limbo. It is tentatively scheduled for April 3. That could change if a decision isn't made in time to get the ballots out.
 
Justices in the U.S. Supreme Court are reviewing an interim map developed by judges in San Antonio to see if it can offer a temporary solution so that the election can continue. The temporary maps are considered to be favorable to Latinos and African Americans.

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