DOJ Nixes Racial Gerrymandering Section From Prosecutor’s Manual

On Abraham Lincoln’s birthday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions delivers remarks in the Lincoln Hall of Union League of Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA, on February 12, 2018. (Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers/NurPhoto)
NurPhoto via Getty Images

Under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department has removed language stressing the need to prevent racial gerrymandering from the manual used by federal prosecutors, Buzzfeed News reported Sunday.

Before the section was removed in March, it affirmed that DOJ would support redistricting plans that are drawn to help minority communities achieve meaningful representation, and would fight racially gerrymandered plans that undermine minority voting power.

“The Voting Section defends from unjustified attack redistricting plans designed to provide minority voters fair opportunities to elect candidates of their choice and endeavors to achieve racially fair results where courts find, following Shaw v. Reno, 113 S.Ct. 286 (1993), and Johnson v. Miller, 115 S.Ct. 2475 (1995), that redistricting plans constitute unconstitutional racial gerrymanders,” the section read, according to an archived version of the online manual.

Buzzfeed News discovered that the section no longer exists and that the current manual does not mention redistricting or racial gerrymandering elsewhere. The handbook does still mention some voting rights issues, such as bans on literacy tests and poll taxes, Buzzfeed News noted.

News of the change comes a week after the Supreme Court heard a challenge to a Texas redistricting plan that the courts have found to be a racial gerrymander aimed at undercutting Latino voting power. Under the Trump administration, the Justice Department has sided with Texas in defending the maps.

The Justice Department also removed a section on the need for a free press and public trial, Buzzfeed News reported.

Read Buzzfeed News’ full report on the changes here.

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