The Justice Department on Monday filed a lawsuit claiming Texas legislators discriminated against voters of color in their newly drawn district maps for Congress and the state House.

The redistricting discriminated against voters of color by denying Latino and Black voters equal opportunities to participate in the voting process and elect their preferred candidates, the Biden administration said in the suit.

DOJ officials filed the 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 diminish the voting strength of voters of color.

The suit also asks the federal court to block the state from conducting the upcoming March primaries under the challenged maps.

At a press conference Monday, U.S. Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta said the maps passed into law by the Republican-controlled Legislature showed an “overall disregard for the massive minority population growth” the state experienced over the last decade.”

“Our investigation determined that Texas’ redistricting plans will dilute the increased minority voting strength that should have developed from these significant demographic shifts,” Gupta said.

Texas lawmakers 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. But their work, signed into law by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, was largely not reflective of the state’s growth, 95% of which was attributable to people of color.

Republicans opted to give White voters effective control of the two new congressional districts the state gained because of its explosive population growth, even though the state’s White population has remained relatively stagnant. The state’s new congressional map also 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. Half of the 4 million residents the state gained in the past 10 years were Hispanic.

In its complaint, the DOJ takes specific aim at the redrawing of the 23rd Congressional District in West Texas, a long fought-over district, which it argues was reconfigured by switching out voters and splitting precincts so that the final product would “eliminate a Latino electoral opportunity.”

The DOJ also points to the configuration of districts in the Dallas-Fort Worth area where it argues the map “effectively turns back a decade of rapid Latino population growth and preserves Anglo control of most remaining districts.”

Republicans redrew congressional districts in the area with almost surgical precision, stranding urban and suburban voters of color in vast rural districts.

The department is also challenging Texas’ new state House map where it argues lawmakers eliminated Latino electoral opportunities “through manipulation or outright elimination of districts where Latino communities previously had elected their preferred candidates.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune. Read the original here.

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