Republican State Representative John Garza rejected the inclusion of politically organized Hispanics in his district. That statement was included in the filing by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to deny Texas’ request for summary judgment in the redistricting case.
According to the DOJ, Republicans intentionally discriminated against voters protected under the Voting Rights Act and reduced the number of house districts where communities of color could elect their candidate of choice from 50 to no more than 46. John Garza’s House District 117 was cited by the DOJ as one where Latinos would no longer be able to elect their candidate of choice.
We already knew that as a proud member of the Hispanic Republican Conference, John Garza kicked out 25,665 Latinos from his legislative district. House District 117 as currently drawn has 138,909 Latinos. The newly drawn Garza-approved House District 117, to which the DOJ has repeatedly objected, has only 113,244. And as the DOJ continues to point out, that’s more than just ironic, it’s unconstitutional.
We recently learned that while the new redistricting maps were being draw, John Garza specifically rejected having Hispanics from politically organized areas in his district and suggested that his neighboring Democratic colleague, Representative Joe Farias, needed “more Mexicans in [his] district.” The DOJ also noted that the Republican maps split well organized Hispanic communities in Bexar County and substituted them with areas that are equally as Hispanic but not as politically organized.
Essentially, Garza and his Republican colleagues swapped Hispanics who vote for Hispanics who don’t. John Garza was clearly trying to kick out the Latinos whose interests he voted against all session so that he wouldn’t have to face them in the next election. But Garza’s attempts to violate the voting rights of his constituents don’t stop with his illegal racial gerrymander.
Garza also voted in favor of the Republican voter suppression legislation which could disenfranchise more than 600,000 Texans — including more than 53,000 Bexar County residents. Of the 53,511 current registered voters in Bexar County who could be disenfranchised under the Republican voter suppression legislation, 25,690 (or 48 percent) are Hispanic. The Secretary of State’s office conveniently left out this statistic from their report to the DOJ because it’s a strong indicator that the voter identification legislation, like the Republican illegal racial gerrymander, also violates the Voting Rights Act.
One needs only to glance at Garza’s legislative record of betrayal to understand why he’s scared. Garza put partisan politics and his own self-interests above those of his constituents. He betrayed our seniors by slashing Medicaid funding for nursing homes. He betrayed the students seeking a higher education by cutting financial assistance for college. He betrayed our children by slashing billions of dollars from our public schools. In a pathetic attempt to justify his bad votes, Garza lied from the floor of the Texas House of Representatives and said that no teacher in his district would lose his or her job. To call him disingenuous would be an understatement.
Now he knows he has a better chance at staying in office if his constituents don’t vote. That’s why John Garza and his Republican colleagues are using every trick in the book to try and pre-determine the outcome of elections. The residents of Bexar County deserve better than a representative who would rather draw them out of the district than vote in favor of their interests.
Rebecca Acuña is the Deputy Political Director for Base Outreach for the Texas Democratic Party.