Gerrymandered? Hold placed on redrawing of congressional district lines

Changes to congressional district boundaries in Hays County may be coming after a federal court ruled they were gerrymandered in 2013 using “unconstitutional discrimination.”

That decision came after a three-judge panel ruled Congressional District 35, represented by Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin), along with Congressional District 27, represented by U.S. Rep. Blake Farenhold (R-Corpus Christi), violated the U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, according to a Texas Tribune report.

But those changes may be on hold after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito Monday put a temporary hold on the lower court’s ruling, in order to settle a lawsuit against the state over its congressional district lines, according to the Texas Tribune.

According to the ruling, lawmakers illegally used race as the predominant factor in redrawing CD-35, and that the district was a “racial gerrymander,” according to the Texas Tribune.

Gerrymandering is manipulating the boundaries of an electoral constituency to favor one party or class.

Doggett’s district extends from the eastern portion of Travis County and as far south as central and western Bexar County. CD-35 includes the eastern part of Hays County, including all of Kyle, and the western part of Caldwell County.

Jamie Woo, communications director for Lloyd Doggett, said that up until January 2013, when the current congressional maps were approved, CD 35 included all of Hays County.

The contested district spans five counties, including eastern Hays and western Caldwell counties. The lines were set to be redrawn after a federal court ruled lawmakers had illegally used race as the predominant factor in drawing the lines, but on Monday the U.S. Supreme Court put a temporary stay on the ruling.

Hays County is currently split between three congressional districts. Along with Doggett’s district is CD 25, represented by U.S. Rep. Roger Williams (R-Austin), which takes in most of western Hays County, including Dripping Springs and Wimberley.

CD 21, represented by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith (R-San Antonio), includes a small sliver of central Hays County, including some parts of Buda.

Texas’ legislature first attempted to redraw the lines to include four additional congressional seats allocated to Texas after the 2010 census.

Prior to this month’s ruling, the same three-person panel ruled the Texas Legislature aimed to weaken the strength of Latino and black voters while attempting to redraw maps in 2011, according to the Tribune. While those 2011 maps were never approved, the current maps were approved in 2013.

According to Doggett’s website, the Aug. 15 ruling was one of vindication.

“The court unanimously found that the Republican-drawn congressional map was intentionally discriminatory,” Doggett said. “What Republicans did was not just wrong, it was unconstitutional.”

Doggett said the extended struggle is “not yet over.” Woo said the Supreme Court will hold a Sept. 5 hearing regarding “an appropriate remedy that redraws the district.”

“Unless the Supreme Court rules otherwise, I plan to seek re-election in the district that I currently represent,” Doggett said.

Woo also said that Doggett “believes that gerrymandering interferes with the need for citizens to have representatives that are accessible and accountable.”

Regardless of the results of the hearing in September, Woo said Doggett plans to serve his constituents and remains “fully accessible and accountable” to his voter base.

“Everyone loses when Republican gerrymandering makes elected officials less accessible and less accountable,” Doggett said.

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