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Justice Department Expresses Concern Over Texas Redistricting Plan

The United States Justice Department expressed concern Monday about whether new Texas redistricting plans for four U.S. House seats comply with the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which protects the interests of minority voters.

In a filing with a special three-judge court panel in Washington D.C., civil rights lawyers at Justice wrote that they doubted new boundaries for the House seats "maintain or increase the ability of minority voters to elect their candidate of choice."

Latino groups are also fighting the Texas plan, because they want greater choices and opportunities given that the new House seats are largely a result of the soaring Hispanic population in the state.

Gerry Hebert, a Democratic lawyer who handles election cases, says he believes the Justice Department has concluded the Texas plan, which creates 10 majority-minority districts out of 36 total districts, has a "retrogressive effect" under the landmark civil rights law.

Also, by way of comparison, the current U.S. House maps allow for 10 majority minority districts out of 32 total, which means that even though there are four more districts overall, now, the number of minority districts remains the same.

More information about the Justice Department concerns could emerge at a court hearing Wednesday.

The issues have been closely watched because this is the first time in 40 years that Democrats have controlled the White House and the Justice Department during a period of redistricting.

GOP-led Texas and Alabama, which are covered under the Voting Rights Act because of a history of discrimination, decided to submit their plans for approval to a federal court rather than the Obama Department of Justice.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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