Texas redistricting broke voting rights laws, GOP state senator admits in sworn court statement

"It was obvious to me that the renewed effort to dismantle SD 10 violated the Voting Rights Act"

Published January 27, 2022 6:40PM (EST)

Texas Capitol (Cotorreando/Getty Images)
Texas Capitol (Cotorreando/Getty Images)

A retiring Republican state senator in Texas admitted in a sworn declaration that he believes his party violated federal voting laws when it drew new boundaries for the state's senate districts in 2011 and 2013 — a stunning admission that was made public this week as part of an ongoing federal challenge to Texas' redistricting process. 

State Sen. Kel Seliger's statement specifically mentioned the state's Senate District 10, which split predominantly Black and Hispanic communities in the Fort Worth area into two other districts that ultimately held majority-white populations, according to the Texas Tribune. Even the minority voters who remained in District 10 were "lumped in" with a number of neighboring counties that happened to be white-majority as well, the outlet reported.

"Having participated in the 2011 and 2013 Senate Select Redistricting Committee proceedings, and having read the prior federal court decision regarding SD10, it was obvious to me that the renewed effort to dismantle SD 10 violated the Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution," Seliger said in the declaration, which he signed in November.

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The challenge to Texas' decade-old redistricting boundaries is being spearheaded by state Sen. Beverly Powell, a Democrat who represents the current District 10. She is hoping to have a federal judge to nix the district map ahead of the state's March primary election, the Tribune reported. Throughout the case, the chief Senate map-maker Sen. Joan Huffman has insisted that the maps were drawn in "race-blind" fashion.

Though if proven, this would not be the first time Republicans have been found guilty of wrongdoing in the state's redistricting process. A federal court in Washington, D.C. ruled back in 2012 that lawmakers — led by Seliger, who chaired the state Senate's redistricting committee at the time — had actively discriminated against minority voters when it split their communities into several disparate Congressional districts.

Seliger himself also appears to be a victim of the redistricting process. He announced his retirement last year after discovering that redistricting meant he would have to face a new primary challenger.

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By Brett Bachman

Brett Bachman was the Nights/Weekend Editor at Salon.

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Gerrymandering Kel Seliger Redistricting Texas Voting Rights Act