Federal court finds discrimination in new Texas voting maps

Conservative supporters gather at the Victory Texas and Republican Party of Texas election night watch party for Republican Gov. Rick Perry, at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch on November 2, 2010, in Buda, Texas. Ben Sklar/Getty Images

(CBS/AP) SAN ANTONIO - Texas' voting districts are again in upheaval after a federal court on Tuesday found evidence of discrimination in new district maps drawn and approved by the state's Republican-controlled Legislature last year.

The U.S. District Court in Washington wrote in a 154-page opinion that the maps don't comply with the federal Voting Rights Act because state prosecutors failed to show Texas lawmakers did not draw congressional and state Senate districts "without discriminatory purposes."

The ruling applies to the maps originally drawn by the Legislature in 2011, and not interim maps drawn by a San Antonio federal court that are to be used in the upcoming elections this November.

CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen said the Supreme Court likely will have the final say here, and it's been quite supportive of Republican redistricting efforts in the recent past. There's likely to be some sort of expedited appeal.

This ruling is a blow to the GOP because it keeps in place the current voting districts. Later in the week, there's also expected to be a ruling out of Washington over Texas' efforts to impose a restrictive new voter law that many minority groups allege discriminates against their right to vote.

Luis Vera, an attorney for the League of United Latin American Citizens, called the redistricting ruling "better late than never" and a win for his and other minority rights groups that sued the state over the maps.

"The three-judge panel unanimously found intentional discrimination across the state. There's no ifs, ands, or buts about it," Vera said.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott immediately vowed to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Today's decision extends the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits intended by Congress and beyond the boundaries imposed by the Constitution," Abbott said in a statement.

How Texas redrew its political boundaries was closely watched after the state was awarded four additional U.S. House seats based on a booming population largely driven by minorities. Those congressional seats were carved equally into two safely Republican and two safely Democratic districts.

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