Judges Reunite Texas Congressional District

A three-judge federal panel on Friday reunited Webb County into one congressional district, solidifying Hispanic voting strength in South Texas.

The U.S. Supreme Court remanded the map to the three-judge federal panel to redraw the sprawling 23rd Congressional District, which it ruled in June unconstitutionally diluted Hispanic voting strength.

"These changes restore Latino voting strength to District 23 without dividing communities of interest," the judges said.

The panel reunited Webb County, which includes the majority-Hispanic city of Laredo, and placed it entirely in the 28th Congressional District, which is adjacent to the 23rd District. It added portions of Bexar County, which includes San Antonio, to the 23rd District.

The district stretches from Laredo to El Paso County and north to San Antonio. The high court ruled that the district boundaries drawn by Republican state legislators in 2003 diminish Hispanic voting power because a large cluster of Webb County Hispanics were divided into two different congressional districts.

The new plan also moves Kerr, Kendall, Bandera, and Real counties into the 21st Congressional District, represented by Republican Lamar Smith of San Antonio.

The 23rd District, represented by Republican U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla of San Antonio, under the map the judges issued Friday, has a 61 percent Hispanic voting age population, compared with 51 percent under the Republican-led redistricting. It also now will be more evenly divided between Democratic and Republican voters.

Under the new plan, all incumbents would remain in their current districts.

Because the districts have been redrawn after the primary elections, the seats are open now to anyone who wants to run. Candidates have until Aug. 25 to file for the race. A special election will be held alongside the general election for congressional seats in the affected districts.