Redistricting in Texas
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|Process:||State legislature first, commission as backup|
|Deadline:||October 26, 2011|
|Total seats to be drawn|
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- 1 Process
- 2 Leadership
- 3 Census results
- 4 US Congressional Delegation Map
- 5 Legislative Maps
- 6 Legal issues
- 6.1 Consolidation of three lawsuits
- 6.2 Undocumented immigrant population lawsuit
- 6.3 MALC Hispanic population lawsuit
- 6.4 Prisoner counting lawsuit
- 6.5 Representative Joe Barton lawsuit
- 6.6 Travis County, TX lawsuit
- 6.7 League of United Latin American Citizens lawsuit
- 6.8 Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force
- 6.9 Marc Veasey lawsuit
- 6.10 Maps violate VRA, thrown out
- 7 Controversy
- 8 2014 ruling
- 9 Redistricting timeline
- 10 History
- 11 Constitutional authorities
- 12 See also
- 13 External links
- 14 References
The 2011 Texas redistricting cycle proved to be a politically contentious and high-stakes process. According to 2010 Census reapportionment data, Texas gained four Congressional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in the latest round of decennial redistricting, more than any other state in the nation. The federal Congressional boundaries were not the only important issue at play in the redistricting process, as Texas State Senate, House of Representatives, and State Board of Education lines also had to be redrawn. Equally contentious as the federal lines, battles over state redistricting began making waves in Texas politics the day after the November 2, 2010 general elections.
Early tensions resulted in a Texas House General Investigating and Ethics Committee investigation after allegations surfaced that incumbent Speaker Joe Straus (R) was using the redistricting process to threaten political opponents for voting against him in the then future Speaker vote. The incident involving Speaker Straus proved indicative of the turmoil that was to mark the redistricting process in Texas. Multiple lawsuits quickly emerged at both the state and federal level, many of which remained unsettled.
The legal turmoil reached a zenith on December 9, 2011 when the US Supreme Court intervened and temporarily halted the use of interim maps drawn by a San Antonio federal court until it could rule on the court drawn maps. The San Antonio court had drawn the maps to be used in placed of the state's legislatively drawn maps after they were denied Voting Rights Act preclearance by a DC court.
Due to legal turmoil in the redistricting process, filing deadlines for the 2012 elections were changed twice and the primary date was changed once. The original filing deadline was December 12th, which was then moved to December 15th. The deadline was further changed to December 19th. However, the filing period was re-opened once a final map was chosen.The original primary date was March 6, 2012 and the original primary runoff date was set for May 22, 2012.
Redistricting in Texas is controlled by the Texas State Legislature. Once the state receives data from the U.S. Census Bureau, both Houses of the Legislature introduce bills to redraw the state legislative and congressional boundaries. If the Legislature fails to approve a redistricting plan, the state constitution requires a state redistricting board to be formed to complete the plan. Any plan created by a Commission or a Legislature must receive pre-clearance from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. This is consistent with the Voting Rights Act.
Legislative Redistricting Board
The Legislative Redistricting Board is comprised of the lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, land commissioner, comptroller, and attorney general. Its purpose is to step in and develop a redistricting plan in the event the legislature fails to pass a plan of its own (House, Senate, or both) by the end of the first regular legislative session following the release of US Census reapportionment data. By order of the Texas Constitution, the Board must meet within 90 days of the session in which a redistricting plan was not passed, and adopt a plan within 60 days of meeting.
Citizen Redistricting Commission
The Texas State Senate passed a bill (SB22) on June 22, 2011 that would create a citizen redistricting commission. Acknowledging what he saw as the impossibility of removing partisanship from the redistricting process, Senator Jeff Wentworth sponsored the commission bill with the aim of making the process fairer and less politically charged. SB22 passed the Senate but failed to make it out of the House. The Senate passed similar bills in 2005 and 2007; both times the bills were defeated in the House.
In a December 2011 column to his constituents Senator Wentworth addressed the redistricting committee issue:
Last June, during the special legislative session, a bill I authored that would have changed the method whereby we redraw Congressional district lines was passed by the Senate. Senate Bill 22 would have brought to an end the divisive and highly partisan exercise that always results in bad blood, expensive lawsuits, and gerrymandered Congressional districts, which are a disservice to Texans.
In addition to separating communities of interest, gerrymandering protects incumbents. Protected incumbencies discourage challengers, so voters’ choices are limited to a “token” challenger or to no choice at all.
Since both political parties have proven conclusively that they are unable to resist the gerrymandering urge, Senate Bill 22 would have created an independent, bipartisan citizens' redistricting commission that I believe would bring more of a sense of balance and a semblance of fairness to redistricting.
An independent commission also would allow the Legislature to attend to critical issues during a redistricting session instead of indulging in bitter wrangling over Congressional districts.
A February 22, 2012 Texas Tribune poll asked readers if they supported taking redistricting out of the hands of the legislature and putting it with an independent redistricting commission. 42 percent said they approved. 27 percent were against it. 30 percent were undecided.
Senate Redistricting Committee
Lt Governor David Dewhurst announced the makeup of Senate committees on Friday January 28th, 2011, including the Select Committee on Redistricting. Republican Kel Seliger chaired the committee. Democrat Mario Gallegos was appointed as vice-chair. The committee's members were as follows:
Tarrant County officials publicly announced concern over not being represented on the Redistricting Committee. Tarrant, home to the city of Fort Worth, is the third most populous county in Texas. County Judge Glen Whitley commented "They covered every major county except Tarrant County. We're the third-largest county in the state and for us not to have anybody on there, it's just not right." Lt Governor David Dewhurst Lt Governor David Dewhurst responded that he would ensure that Tarrant's three senators would be involved in the redistricting process. "Right now, we've got 15 people on redistricting, and there's a limit to how many people we can put on any one committee. Almost everybody in the Senate had wanted to be on redistricting," noted Dewhurst.
The Senate Redistricting Committee held its first hearing on February 16, 2011.
House Redistricting Committee
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus announced House committee assignments on February 9th 2011, amongst them the influential Committee on Redistricting. Republican Burt Solomons received the chairmanship. Democrat Michael Villarreal was appointed vice-chair. Of the remaining 15 members, 4 were Democrats and 11 were Republicans:
According to 2010 Census reapportionment data Texas gained four Congressional seats in the US House of Representatives in that round of decennial redistricting, more than any other state in the nation. The new seats came as a result of stark population growth in Texas over the last decade. Texas grew 20.6% from 2000 to 2010, more than double the 9.7% national growth over the same period. Hispanics overwhelmingly accounted for the largest portion of Texas's growth. Conservative estimates showed Hispanics accounting for approximately two-thirds of the state's nearly four-million new residents. While the flood of new Texans clearly meant more representation in Congress, the shape that representation would take was still up in the air until the redistricting was finalized. Both Republicans and Democrats sought to gain as many of those four seats as politically and legally possible. This struggle for seats led to prolonged and complex legal battles stretching multiple state and federal court jurisdictions that resulted in lost resources and confusion on many levels, including delayed 2012 elections.
Texas United Way discusses 2011 redistricting
Congressional district population deviations
With the release of 2010 Census reapportionment data, it was announced Texas would gain four seats in the US House of Representatives, bringing the Texas delegation to 36 seats. The Census data also reported that the average number of people per representative should be 701,901, to ensure equal representation in accordance with the "one-person, one-vote" principle. The following table uses 2009 American Community Survey data to display the current estimated population in the existing 32 districts, as well as the difference between the current population of those districts and the target of 701,901 when they were redrawn to include the four new seats. These deviations lent insight into the areas of Texas that would expand or shrink in the redistricting process.
|Population Deviations in Texas Congressional Districts|
|District||2009 ACS Estimate||Deviation||Percentage|
Deviation from "Ideal Districts"
|2000 Population Deviation|
|State House Districts||9.74%|
|State Senate Districts||9.7%1|
|Under federal law, districts may vary from an 'Ideal District' by up to 10%, though the lowest number achievable is preferred. 'Ideal Districts' are computed through simple division of the number of seats for any office into the population at the time of the Census.|
The map below was produced by the Texas Legislative Council to show population change in Texas over the last decade. The map compared the population changes experienced by the districts to the statewide rate of change, highlighting pockets of growth and decline. This type of information was crucial for redistricting because it allowed those drawing the lines to do so in a way that resulted in an equitable and representative fashion, upholding the "one person, one vote" principle. Orange shaded areas represented districts that grew less than the state rate. Yellow shaded areas are districts that grew roughly the same as the state as a whole. Green areas are districts that outgrew the state as a whole.
US Congressional Delegation Map
In late 2011 a federal court implemented newly drawn maps for the Texas House of Representatives, the Texas State Senate, and Texas' congressional delegation. The San Antonio court was forced to draw interim maps in order for the 2012 elections to proceed without further delay after a DC-based court rejected Texas' maps on grounds they violated the Voting Rights Act. The maps increased minority voting power and in turn the likelihood of Democrats gaining seats. Republicans were not pleased with the court-drawn maps, to say the least. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott had been highly critical of the court's maps since day one, claiming the court was overreaching and creating policy instead of upholding the law. Abbott attempted to block the plans by requesting emergency stays from the United State Supreme Court. The Attorney General filed a request on November 28th, 2011 asking the high court to halt implementation of the interim State House and State Senate plans. He filed a similar request for Texas' congressional map on December 1st, 2011. The Supreme Court answered the Texas Attorney General on Friday December 9th, temporarily halting the court-drawn maps until it could hear the case.
State approval process
The 82 Legislative Session came to a close on May 30, 2011 with a slew of open problems still facing the Texas Legislature. On May 31, 2011 Governor Rick Perry called an immediate special session to rectify those issues. Chief amongst the items forcing the special session was balancing the budget, but as many observers expected Governor Perry added congressional redistricting to the agenda. While redistricting maps were passed for the Texas House of Representatives, the Texas State Senate, and the State Board of Education, the legislature failed to pass a congressional map within the regular session.
After redistricting was added to the special session agenda on Tuesday, legislators finally released a long-awaited congressional redistricting map (See Figure 1). Senator Kel Seliger, Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting and Representative Burt Solomons, Chairman of the Committee on Redistricting, sponsored the map. Following the major trend of Texas's redistricting 2011 cycle, Democrats immediately railed against the Republican plan for not giving enough representation to minorities, even going so far as calling the map illegal. Congressional redistricting hearings began June 3, 2011.
On June 6, 2011 the Texas State Senate passed the congressional redistricting map in an 18-12 vote that went directly down party lines. Democrats continued their loud protests that the map did not provide adequate minority representation and that it violated the Voting Rights Act. Democratic Senator Eddie Lucio of Brownsville proclaimed ""How is it fair that although Anglos only make up 45 percent of our population, but they control 72 percent of our congressional districts. It does not make any sense; it is unfair." Senator Kel Seliger, Senate Redistricting Committee Chair, defended the map stating ""This process continues to be driven by the fairness of the process, and the legality."
The House Committee on Redistricting passed a slightly altered version of the congressional map on June 9, 2011. From there it will be voted on by the full House. Democratic opponents say the changes to the House map further dilute Hispanic voting power in areas such as San Antonio and Fort Worth.
The Texas House of Representatives gave final approval on the US Congressional redistricting map Wednesday June 15, 2011. The bill was a slightly amended version of the plan previously passed by the Senate. Speaker of the House Joe Straus commented “I am particularly pleased that we have passed all four redistricting maps required this year. The members provided much input and direction on maps that reflect the population changes in our state.”
The Congressional redistricting plan passed the Senate on June 20, 2011 in a 19-12 straight party vote. From there the Congressional map was sent to be signed by Governor Rick Perry. Governor Perry signed Texas's congressional redistricting map into law on July 18, 2011.
The state-approved congressional map was immediately thrown into legal question and its fate would be determined by two federal court cases, one in San Antonio and one in DC.
Federal approval process
Attorney General Greg Abbott submitted Texas's congressional map, along with the state’s other redistricting maps, to a panel of three federal judges in Washington, D.C. on July 19, 2011. Texas is among the states that must submit their redistricting plans to the federal government for approval under the auspices of the Voting Rights Act. The standard route for obtaining federal approval is for states to submit their plans to the Voting Rights Division of the Department of Justice; this is the route Texas has taken in the past. But political tension between Texas and the Obama administration's DOJ led state leaders to circumvent the traditional route in the 2011 cycle. After filing the plans with the federal judges on Tuesday, Attorney General Abbot then informally submitted the maps to the DOJ for preclearance. The dual-filing caused speculation and confusion. Abbott said filing the maps with the DOJ was "to facilitate and expedite disposition of this matter."
On September 19, 2011 the Department of Justice filed a response with the DC federal court rejecting Texas's request for preclearance, arguing that the state's congressional and State Assembly maps violated the Voting Rights Act.
The DC federal court shot down Texas' congressional map on November 8, 2011, denying the state's request for a preclearance summary judgement. The three-judge panel said that the methods used by the state to draw state house, state senate, and congressional maps were improper and in violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The preclearance denial meant the court would have to undergo a lengthy trial to reach a full decision on Texas' maps. This fact made interim maps a must in order to minimize delays to the 2012 elections.
In December 2011, the San Antonio federal court hearing Texas' consolidated redistricting case implemented their own interim maps (including a congressional map) to be used for the 2012 elections. The court-drawn maps were a temporary solution while awaiting a decision from the DC court and ultimately a solution over how the state's political boundaries would be established. The maps increased minority voting power and in turn the likelihood of Democrats gaining seats. Texas Republicans objected. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was highly critical of the court's maps, claiming the court was overreaching and creating policy instead of upholding the law. Abbott attempted to block the plans by requesting emergency stays from the United States Supreme Court. The Attorney General filed a request on December 1st asking the high court to halt implementation of the interim map for Texas' congressional delegation.
The Supreme Court answered the Texas Attorney General on Friday December 9, 2011, temporarily halting the court-drawn maps until it could hear the case. Then on January 20, 2012 the Court ruled that the interim maps (including the congressional map) that had been put in place by the San Antonio federal court could not stand, and sent the maps back to the lower court for redrawing. The Supreme Court said that redistricting is primarily a legislative responsibility and that the San Antonio court didn't give enough credence to the maps drawn by the Texas State Legislature. The ruling ordered the San Antonio court to use the legislative maps as a starting point for redrawing the boundaries.
In late 2011 a federal court implemented newly drawn maps for the Texas House of Representatives, the Texas State Senate, and Texas' congressional delegation. The San Antonio court was forced to draw interim maps in order for the 2012 elections to proceed without further delay after a DC-based court rejected Texas' maps on grounds they violated the Voting Rights Act. The maps increase minority voting power and in turn the likelihood of Democrats gaining seats. Republicans were not pleased with the court-drawn maps, to say the least. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has been highly critical of the court's maps since day one, claiming the court was overreaching and creating policy instead of upholding the law. Abbott attempted to block the plans by requesting emergency stays from the United State Supreme Court. The Attorney General filed a request on November 28th, 2011 asking the high court to halt implementation of the interim State House and State Senate plans. He filed a similar request for Texas' congressional map on December 1st, 2011. The Supreme Court answered the Texas Attorney General on Friday December 9th, 2011, temporarily halting the court-drawn maps until it could hear the case. As of January 25, 2012, the Supreme Court had not reached a decision.
Legislative approval process
Texas State Senate
The Texas State Senate caused a stir on May 11, 2011 by releasing a proposed map of its 31 districts. As with all of the other maps that have surfaced during this redistricting cycle, Democrats immediately criticized the Senate map for underrepresenting minorities. Perhaps even more unpopular was the redrawing of existing districts, which would dilute the power of some incumbents and pit others against each other in the next election. Travis County, which includes the capital city of Austin, goes from being divided by two Senate districts to four. Following the predictable litigation trend, the maps' opponents said they were heading for the courts.
Texas House of Representatives
After sixteen hours of debate on April 28, 2011, the Texas House of Representatives came to a tentative decision on a new map of its 150 political districts. Republican Rep. Burt Solomons, Chairman of the House Redistricting Committee, headed the contentious discussions. Various groups proposed amendments, mostly to further the political interests of specific minority groups. Hispanic, African American, and Asian groups all protested that the plan protected Republican interests at the expense of minority constituents.
Ultimately the map, which favored the Republican supermajority, was passed in a 92-52 vote. Ten Republicans voted against the map and three Democrats voted in favor. But the battle was far from over. Given the heated controversy surrounding the passing of map, it was highly likely the map would be challenged in court. Displeased with Hispanic representation under the current map, Democratic Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer said ""This is exactly where we're going to go."
The House Redistricting Committee first released the map proposing new lines for the Texas House of Representatives April 13, 2011. Representative Burt Solomons , Chairman of the Committee, announced "The map we are proposing is a fair and legal map that represents the people of Texas and our growth over the last 10 years." Latinos, who were responsible for the largest portion of Texas's population growth, got one new district. 16 incumbents would find themselves competing against each other in 2012, after having their districts paired under the new map. As expected due to population growth patterns, rural areas such as East Texas and the Western Panhandle are losing representation to more urban areas such as Dallas and San Antonio.
State Board of Education
The House approved a map for the 15-member State Board of the Education (SBOE) on May 4th. The vote was 80-61. The map passed the Senate on April 29th, 2011 and was sent to be signed into law by Governor Rick Perry. The map's opponents claimed that minorities did not receive enough representation - a common theme in Texas redistricting. House Redistricting Committee Chairman Burt Solomons (R) quipped “You can’t please everybody” in response. Observers on both sides of the political divide agreed the map would be challenged in court.
The House Redistricting Committee approved the map for the 15-member State Board of the Education (SBOE) on April 1, 2011. The SBOE map was the first map approved by either chamber's redistricting committee in the 2011 Texas redistricting cycle. "The map was approved Friday on a 12-4 vote. Rep. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, said she voted against the newly proposed boundaries because she thought lawmakers could craft an alternative that would give Hispanics a bigger voice on the board. Rep. Burt Solomons, the North Texas Republican who chairs the committee, said he thought it was a fair map."
Federal approval process
Attorney General Greg Abbott submitted Texas's redistricting maps, to a panel of three federal judges in Washington DC on July 19, 2011. Texas was among the states that must submit their redistricting plans to the federal government for approval under the auspices of the Voting Rights Act. The standard route for obtaining federal approval was for states to submit their plans to the Voting Rights Division of the Department of Justice; this was the route Texas had taken in the past. But political tension between Texas and the Obama administration's DOJ led state leaders to circumvent the traditional route in the 2011 cycle. After filing the plans with the federal judges on Tuesday, Attorney General Abbot then informally submitted the maps to the DOJ for preclearance. The dual-filing caused speculation and confusion. Abbott said filing the maps with the DOJ was "to facilitate and expedite disposition of this matter."
On September 19, 2011 the Department of Justice filed a response with the DC federal court rejecting Texas's request for preclearance, arguing that the state's congressional and State Assembly maps violated the Voting Rights Act.
The DC federal court shot down Texas' senate and house maps on November 8, 2011, denying the state's request for a preclearance summary judgement. The three-judge panel said that the methods used by the state to draw state house, state senate, and congressional maps were improper and in violation of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The preclearance denial meant the court would have to undergo a lengthy trial to reach a full decision on Texas' maps. This fact made interim maps a must in order to minimize delays to the 2012 elections.
In December 2011, the San Antonio federal court hearing Texas' consolidated redistricting case implemented their own interim maps (senate, house, and congress) to be used for the 2012 elections. The court-drawn maps were a temporary solution while awaiting a decision from the DC court and ultimately a solution over how the state's political boundaries would be established. The maps increased minority voting power and in turn the likelihood of Democrats gaining seats. Texas Republicans objected. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was highly critical of the court's maps, claiming the court was overreaching and creating policy instead of upholding the law. Abbott attempted to block the plans by requesting emergency stays from the United States Supreme Court. The Attorney General filed a request on November 28, 2011 asking the high court to halt implementation of the interim maps for the state senate and state house.
The Supreme Court answered the Texas Attorney General on Friday December 9, 2011, temporarily halting the court-drawn maps until it could hear the case. Then on January 20, 2012 the Court ruled that the interim maps that had been put in place by the San Antonio federal court could not stand, and sent the maps back to the lower court for redrawing. The Supreme Court said that redistricting was primarily a legislative responsibility and that the San Antonio court didn't give enough credence to the maps drawn by the Texas State Legislature. The ruling ordered the San Antonio court to use the legislative maps as a starting point for redrawing the boundaries.
The Texas House of Representatives approved new district maps during a special session, making a few small changes at the end of the process that provided advantages to incumbents. One change drew a potential primary opponent of one representative out of a district, and another added a representative's mother to her district. The maps passed the Texas State Senate and were signed into law by Governor Rick Perry (R). Although challenged in court, a panel of judges ruled that there was no basis to block the maps and ordered they be used for the 2014 election cycle.
More than 12 lawsuits targeting redistricting surfaced in Texas - two dealing with 2010 Census Hispanic figures—one addressing the counting of prisoners and one over the failure of the Texas Legislature to produce a congressional map in the regular session.
Consolidation of three lawsuits
San Antonio federal judge Orlando Garcia consolidated three of Texas's redistricting lawsuits on July 6, 2011. The three suits - one filed by a legislator, one filed by the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund, and one by the League of United Latin American Citizens - all center around claims that the redistricting plans passed by the Texas State Legislature did not give proportional representation to minorities. The consolidated case commenced on September 6, 2011. The plaintiffs hoped to replace the existing redistricting maps.
Interim map hearing scheduled
The San Antonio panel was scheduled to review the recently submitted interim map proposals on Monday October 31, 2011. The court planned to hear the proposals on Monday and then break until Thursday November 3rd, 2011 to account for the judgement of the DC case which was scheduled for Wednesday November 2nd, 2011.
Interim map proposals submitted
October 18, 2011 was the deadline for participants to submit interim map proposals in Texas' consolidated redistricting case being heard in a San Antonio federal court. Among those who submitted proposals were: State Representatives Marc Veasey and Harold Dutton, Jr., State Senator Wendy Davis, Congressmen Cuellar and Canseco, multiple Hispanic advocacy groups, the NAACP and African-American members of Congress, Travis County plaintiffs, and the State of Texas. One particular proposal put forth by the Mexican American Legislative Caucus could potentially have ended the already heated primary battle between US Representative Lloyd Doggett and State Representative Joaquin Castro by splitting the contested district into two - one centered around San Antonio and one around Austin. Objections to the proposals had to be submitted to the court by October 24, 2011.
Court to draw interim maps
The San Antonio federal court hearing Texas's consolidated redistricting case announced on September 30, 2011 its plans for preemptively drawing interim state house and congressional maps. A similar order was filed on October 3, 2011 putting in place the court's plans to draw interim maps for the state senate. The maps were to be used in place of the state's own maps which were awaiting Voting Rights Act preclearance in a DC court. Hearings on the court's interim maps began on October 31, 2011. 
Judge halts Texas from implementing maps
US District Judge Orlando Garcia stopped Texas's redistricting maps from becoming legally adopted on September 29, 2011. Garcia was one of three judges on a federal panel in San Antonio hearing the consolidated case consisting of numerous legal challenges to the state's 2011 redistricting plans. The court order was needed because the maps were set to become law on October 1st, 2011 and with no legal declaration yet to come down on either side, county election officials were in limbo. Democrats and other supporters of the suit against the state immediately claimed victory upon the court's order. Texas officials stated that the order was expected and neutral, contending that it simply restated the already known fact that the maps couldn't be implemented until pre-cleared. A spokeswoman for the Texas Attorney General's office commented that “For the plaintiffs to somehow applaud this ruling as a win is like claiming victory at the end of the first quarter of a scoreless football game.”
The federal three-judge panel case began hearing closing arguments from plaintiffs on September 15, 2011. Democratic Representative Marc Veasey's lawyer, Gerry Hebert, pulled no punches stating “Let's not pretend the state didn't know the racial implications of what they were doing. They knew it at every click of the mouse in drawing the map.” Attorneys for the Mexican American Legislative caucus and the Latino Redistricting Task Force also gave closing arguments. After the close of the trial, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Greg Abbott said in an email “The state is confident that the new legislative and congressional maps comply with both the federal Voting Rights Act and the U.S. Constitution.” A spokeswoman for Governor Rick Perry commented “The legislature determined and approved the map, and the governor signed it and believes it went through a fair process."
While the closing arguments were heard on September 15th and 16th, 2011, participants and watchers had to wait to hear a decision. The reason for the delay was judges in the case were awaiting the outcome of another Texas federal redistricting case simultaneously occurring in DC. Texas submitted its plans to a DC federal panel in hopes of obtaining Voting Rights Act clearance. A Dallas lawyer close to the redistricting case said “The San Antonio court will hold back and wait until the D.C. court decides these are legally enforceable maps or not. If the D.C. court decides they are legal, the San Antonio court will then rule on the racial gerrymandering claims. If the D.C. court finds the new maps violate the Voting Rights Act, the issue will come back to San Antonio, and the judges here will draw new maps.”
Undocumented immigrant population lawsuit
The first lawsuit in Texas targeting the 2011 redistricting cycle was filed on February 11, 2011. The Texas Tribune reported that "Attorney Michael Hull of Austin, representing three North Texas voters, sued the state and a bunch of others, alleging that counting undocumented immigrants in political districts has an unfair and illegal effect on voters in districts with smaller numbers of non-citizens."
The plaintiffs named in the case were:
"KAAREN TEUBER; JIM K. BURG; RICKY L. GRUNDEN"
The defendants named in the case were:
"STATE OF TEXAS; RICK PERRY, in his official capacity as Governor of the State of Texas; DAVID DEWHURST, in his official capacity as Lieutenant Governor and Presiding Officer of the Texas Senate; JOE STRAUS, in his official capacity as Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives; HOPE ANDRADE, in her official capacity as Secretary of State of the State of Texas; BOYDE RICHIE, in his official capacity as Chair of the Texas Democratic Party; STEVE MUNISTERI, in his official capacity as Chair of the Texas Republican Party; GARY LOCKE, in his official capacity as United States Secretary of Commerce; and ROBERT GROVES, in his official capacity as Director of the United States Bureau of the Census"
MALC Hispanic population lawsuit
The second lawsuit in Texas targeting the 2011 redistricting cycle was filed on April 5, 2011. The Mexican American Legislative Caucus filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas requesting that redistricting measures be halted due to alleged misrepresentation of Hispanics. The group claimed that rural border communities coined colonias, inhabited largely by poor illegal immigrants, were undercounted because the Census Bureau did not mail forms out to members of the 800 to 1,200 colonias. A spokeswoman for the governor’s office said they had received the litigation and would not be commenting on the issue while the matter was still pending.
The lawsuit sought to halt redistricting maps being drawn by the Texas Legislature. Judge Ramon Garcia, of Hidalgo County -- one of the affected areas -- was preparing action against the U.S. Census Bureau over similar concerns. He believed that "the census tally of about 750,000 county residents was short by as many as 250,000 people, an undercount that could mean $300 million to $400 million in lost federal funding for education, health care and infrastructure."
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Census Bureau told the Houston Chronicle that any errors would have the chance to be resolved in 2012 through the Census Coverage Measurement Program and the Count Question Resolution Program.
Prisoner counting lawsuit
A third redistricting lawsuit had been filed in Texas. Representative Harold Dutton (D) of Houston filed a suit in federal court against the state of Texas on Monday May 9th, 2011 arguing that prisoners should be counted in their homes of residence for redistricting purposes. They are currently counted in the locations of their incarceration. The Houston Chronicle reports that "Dutton said some rural counties are awarded more population than they deserve using current prisoner population counting methods. Urban counties, meanwhile, should be able to report higher population counts, he said. Dutton said the way the state counts prisoners violates rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution."
Representative Joe Barton lawsuit
Representative Joe Barton filed Texas's fourth redistricting lawsuit with District Judge James Lagomarsino in Navarro County on May 22, 2011 at 12:01 am. Barton was suing because the Texas Legislature had failed to produce a new map for Texas's US Congressional Delegation.
An email from Barton to constituents dated May 23, 2011 reads:
Dear Texas Colleague,
At 12:01 a.m. on May 22, 2011, moments after it became clear that the Texas Legislature could not create a new Congressional District map in time, I filed a lawsuit in Navarro County District Court to protect the constitutional rights of the citizens of Texas. I had hoped that the Texas Legislature would fulfill its duty. However, time expired and I believe filing a lawsuit was the only way to ensure that our constituents had a Congressional map that meets the needs and rights of every voter. I acted immediately after the legislative deadline passed to increase the likelihood that this lawsuit would become the vehicle for Attorney General of Texas to use in creating the Congressional map for the 2012 election cycle. I will keep you updated on the progress of the suit. As lead plaintiff, I will be pressing a map to the attorney general and the court. Your thoughts and ideas will be very helpful so please don’t hesitate to contact me. Sincerely, Joe Barton, 6th District of Texas, Member of Congress.
Travis County, TX lawsuit
Travis County, TX had plans in place to sue the state of Texas over redistricting. County commissioners authorized County Attorney David Escamilla to file a suit on May 24th, 2011. "County officials are concerned about current plans to split Travis County into four U.S. congressional districts, Escamilla said. "We want to be in a position to counter those efforts.""
League of United Latin American Citizens lawsuit
Another redistricting lawsuit was filed in Texas on June 11, 2011, this one from the League of United Latin American Citizens, "the oldest and largest Latino membership organization in the United States." The group filed the suit against the state of Texas over how redistricting lines were drawn and the resulting effects on minority representation.
Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force
A coalition of Hispanic advocacy groups, with the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force as lead plaintiff, filed a federal redistricting lawsuit against Governor Rick Perry on June 17th, 2011. The suit, filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas, challenged redistricting plans for the Texas House of Representatives and the Texas US Congressional Delegation on grounds that minority voting representation was not proportionate to 2010 Census population data. The suit sought to strengthen Hispanic voting power within the state.
Marc Veasey lawsuit
Democratic State Representative Marc Veasey announced in July 2011 he intended to file a lawsuit to block the state's congressional redistricting plan. He claimed the plan disproportionately diluted minority voting power in the Lone Star State. Commenting on the redistricting plan Veasy stated "It is Republicans harming minority voters and breaking the law in order to hold and expand their power. It is shameful that Republican leaders in Texas would rather attack and destroy the voting rights of minority citizens than work hard to earn the respect of African-American and Hispanic voters."
Maps violate VRA, thrown out
On August 28, 2012, a federal three-judge panel in Washington denied pre-clearance to the legislature's set of maps, effectively tossing out new state senate, state house and Congressional districts.
According to the ruling the new maps diluted minority voting strength and discriminated against Hispanics and blacks, both violations of the Voting Rights Act. While minority groups hailed the ruling as a victory, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) said the panel expanded protections of the VRA and vowed he would "appeal this flawed decision to the U.S. Supreme Court."
A different federal three-judge panel in San Antonio ruled on August 31 that the November 2012 elections in the state would proceed with the interim maps drawn by a court back in February.
Abbott announced on October 19 that the state appealed the case to the U.S. Supreme Court, stating,
The State of Texas is appealing this case because the lower court improperly extended the Voting Rights Act beyond the limits imposed by the Constitution and created new standards that have never been recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court. The maps enacted by the Texas Legislature satisfy all necessary legal requirements, so the judges in Washington, D.C. simply created new requirements in an attempt to justify their rejection of Texas' maps. In order to ensure the Texas Legislature's maps apply to the next election cycle, the State is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case and override the lower court's flawed decision during the Court's current term.
Mark Thoma refuses to participate
Representative Mark Strama (D) of House District 50 (Austin) announced on January 13th 2011 that he would not participate in the redistricting process due to skepticism over the partisan nature of the legislature-controlled process. Community Impact Newspaper reported that "Strama said he's not going to draw any maps, he's not going to lobby his neighbors for specific borders, he's not going to participate in any redistricting committee hearings, and he said he may not even vote on the final redistricting bill in the coming months." Strama explained: "When the Legislature controls redistricting, the likeliest outcome is that there will be fewer districts that are evenly balanced with a genuine chance of being competitive in the general election. There are far more districts where the outcome of the general election is preordained by the district boundaries. It's just wrong."
With four new congressional seats opening up, redistricting was causing a conflict between members. Put simply, the Hispanic population growth had Republicans concerned over where they stood in terms of gaining new seats. Republicans feared that if district lines are drawn in areas where minorities are the majority, Democrats would gain a significant pull over Republicans. Democrats believed that because of Hispanic population growth they deserved at least two of the seats, because Democrats traditionally carried a majority of the Hispanic vote. Specific controversy was occurring between Republican congressional representatives Barton (Arlington) and Smith (San Antonio). Smith, the congressional point man on redistricting for Republicans was said to be in support of a 50/50 split of the seats while Barton was pushing for three, if not four, of the seats to be Republican. It was believed Gov. Perry backed Barton. If the Texas Legislature could not agree on outlines for new districts then Perry could call for a special Legislative session to do so, or if this is not done a state or federal judge would likely draw the districts.
Texas's 29th Congressional district was featured in a Slate publication titled, "The Most Gerrymandered Congressional Districts." There were 20 districts featured from across the country.
Voting Rights Act
Redistricting had always been a politically contentious process in Texas and the 2011 cycle didn’t appear to be breaking any traditions. Republican Senator Jeff Wentworth expressed pessimism when asked how he thought the year's redistricting would go. Wentworth noted that the stated goal of the congressional delegation "is for all the Republican and Democratic congressmen in the Texas delegation to come up with a map they can all agree on, that would protect every incumbent congressman regardless of party, and then divide the four new districts 2-2," says Sen. Wentworth. "Whether or not that actually happens remains to be seen. If it does, it will be the first time." Texas was among the states that must submit their redistricting plans to the federal government for approval under the auspices of the Voting Rights Act. The standard route for obtaining federal approval is for states to submit their plans to the Voting Rights Division of the Department of Justice; this was the route Texas had taken in the past. But Senator Wentworth noted that Texas would probably not submit their redistricting plans to the Justice Department for preclearance this time, citing the partisanship of the Obama administration's DOJ as the reason. Instead, Texas used the alternate method of going directly to the courts and had their redistricting plans reviewed by a three-judge federal court in DC.
"I don't believe it would be in Texas' interest to even go the route of trying to get precleared by the Department of Justice," explained Senator Wentworth. Speaking on the DOJ's Voting Rights Division he added "They're not only Democrats, they're partisan Democrats. Before, you had a professional, career Voting Rights division [staff] at the Department of Justice. Now, you have a partisan Democratic Voting Rights division. Many of us, including me, are convinced that there's not a map that we can draw that they would approve, so it's a waste of time and money."
However the formalities of the process ended up playing out, Wentworth's expectations of civility and fairness were low. "It's pretty certain it will be another mess." "Neither party handles this well."
Voting Rights experts contended that Texas might not be able to circumvent the DOJ by going directly to the courts. The American Independent reported on April 5, 2011:
An expert on Voting Rights Act preclearance told the Texas Independent in late March that the state would probably not find any extra sympathy in front of a three-judge D.C. panel than it would from Department of Justice staffers.
“Even if they go to federal court, they would have to face off with DOJ,” said election law attorney J. Gerald Hebert, who is executive director of the Campaign Legal Center.
“The legal standard used by the federal court is identical to the legal standard used by the DOJ,” he said.
Additionally, “the D.C. court is very deferential to the Justice Department, by and large,” Hebert said. “Because the DOJ reviews about 20,000 voting changes a year, and the D.C. court gets very few a year, they rely very heavily on the expertise of the DOJ.”
“I’ve often found that when a challenge is in the D.C. court, the court looks to the Justice Department for a great deal of guidance,” he said.
Texas submits plans to federal court
Attorney General Greg Abbott submitted Texas's four redistricting maps to a panel of three federal judges in Washington DC on July 19, 2011. Political tension between Texas and the Obama administration's DOJ led state leaders to attempt to circumvent the traditional route during the 2011 cycle. After filing the plans with the federal judges, Attorney General Abbott also then informally submitted the maps to the DOJ for preclearance. The action caused speculation and confusion. Abbott said filing the maps with the DOJ was "to facilitate and expedite disposition of this matter." 
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office filed a brief in the US District Court of the District of Columbia on August 3, 2011, arguing against the attempt of two Democratic legislators at joining the federal case over Texas's pre-clearance. State Representative Marc Veasey (D) and State Senator Wendy Davis (D) filed a motion to join the case days after Texas submitted its redistricting plans to the federal three-judge panel for pre-clearance review. Lawyers with the Texas Attorney General office argued that the Democratic lawmakers "don't have standing to join the federal case and shouldn't be allowed to because their concerns are represented in redistricting lawsuits that have already been filed in Texas."
A federal judge ruled on August 16, 2011 that State Representative Marc Veasey (D) and State Senator Wendy Davis (D) would be allowed to join Texas's court case seeking Voting Rights Act clearance for the state's redistricting plans through a three-judge federal DC court. Texas Republicans protested the Democratic lawmakers' motion to join the case by claiming they lacked standing to join the federal case. Veasey and Davis joined the case with three local Texas residents who argued the Republican-drawn redistricting maps illegally dilute minority voting power. Upon notification of the judge’s decision Senator Davis commented ""This early victory gives Tarrant County voters a strong voice in this process and points to the likelihood that new boundaries for Senate District 10 will eventually be ordered. I am proud to stand with North Texans fighting these illegal maps and I'm confident that a fair and thorough review of the maps will restore the voting rights that were trampled upon during the overtly partisan and discriminatory redistricting process in the Legislature."
Following the Democratic legislators' success, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus filed a similar motion with the three-judge panel on August 17, 2011, asking to join the fight.
Judge orders emails unsealed
Over 400 emails between key Republican political figures in Texas were ordered released on August 11, 2011 by a federal judge in a battle over the state's redistricting plans. The emails in question were sent during the period from October 2010 and June 2011 between members of the Texas congressional delegation, the Texas State Legislature, and their respective staffs. Democrats requested the emails in an effort to accumulate evidence against Republican-drawn redistricting maps. Republicans objected to releasing the emails as evidence, claiming they were constitutionally privileged congressional communication. The judge rejected Republican claims of constitutional protection and ordered the emails to be unsealed.
The emails showed Republican lawmakers and their staffs negotiating and discussing possible scenarios for the districts. One particular email exchange revolved around redrawing San Antonio congressional districts - specifically the makeup of districts currently represented by US Representatives Lamar Smith and Francisco "Quico" Canseco. An email from Representative Lamar Smith to his lawyer asks if would “it help Quico on the margin if I gave him 3k more in Bexar (either GOP or Hispanics) and took Edwards [County] in exchange.” Smith's lawyer replied that Canseco's district “is barely performing (or not depending on your measure) right now; add [Republicans] (which will be Anglos) and you put a neon sign on it telling the court to redraw it. Bring down your numbers and you'll have a Dem opponent every time. And they won't be Lainey Melnick.” The referenced "exchange" never occurred but Democrats point to the emails as evidence of foul play.
Republicans experienced sweeping wins across Texas in the November 2010 general election. Given that redistricting is done by the state government and legislature, Republicans led the way in the 2011 redistricting cycle in Texas. Republicans controlled the State Senate, had a supermajority in the House, and had the offices of Governor, Lt Governor, and Attorney General - all the key redistricting offices and bodies.
Besides controlling the redistricting process itself, the November elections will also have more subtle effects in Texas. Texas Democratic strategist Matt Angle highlights the fact that Democrats lost so many seats and offices that there simply will not be a formidable body of opposition in the event there is a fight with Republicans over redistricting. Angle explains "Well, we lost so many state legislatures and lost so many members of Congress. What's left in a lot of states are just the safe members and so their natural incentive for a fair map -- to drive for a fair map -- is not as strong as it would be if there were other members in the state who have to have a marginal district to survive."
Top Ten Ranking
According to a report in the Washington Post political blog "The Fix," Texas was home one of the top ten redistricting battles in the nation, ranking second on the list. Illinois was ranked first.
The Texas State Legislature is being sued for unconstitutional redistricting of the state house districts following the 2010 census. The U.S. Department of Justice argued on July 14, 2014, that the redistricting of the state's legislative districts "discriminated against Hispanic voters and tried to protect Republican incumbents." In 2013, Texas was one of fifteen states with a history of voting discrimination that was deemed by the high court as no longer needing approval from Washington under the Voting Rights Act to change election laws. The Justice Department argues that Texas should still be required to obtain federal approval. Attorney for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, Bryan Sells, said that Texas has "adopted maps that discriminated against its citizens" since 1970. Patrick Sweeten, an Assistant Texas Attorney General, said, "No one in the Texas Legislature discriminated on the basis of race." If the Texas Legislature is proven to be guilty of discrimination, it could have to be approved for election or voting law changes by the U.S. Attorney General or federal judges. A map of the state house districts for the 83rd Legislature can be found on the Texas Legislative Council website (timed out).
|Texas 2010-2012 Redistricting Timeline|
|April 1, 2010||Census Day|
|Summer–Fall 2010||Regional outreach hearings in selected cities|
|December 31, 2010||Deadline for delivery of state total population data|
|January 10, 2011||Deadline for announcement of number of congressional seats apportioned to the states|
|January 11, 2011||82nd Legislature convenes|
|February 15, 2011||Earliest likely delivery of census population data|
|April 1, 2011||Deadline for delivery of census population data|
|May 12, 2011||Last day to pass house bills under current rules (rules may change)|
|May 30, 2011||82nd Legislature adjourns; deadline for enactment of state senate and house districts|
|May 31–August 27, 2011||Legislative Redistricting Board convenes if legislature fails to adopt a senate or house plan|
|Summer–Fall 2011||Special session on congressional and State Board of Education plans could be called, if necessary|
|October 26, 2011||Last day Legislative Redistricting Board may adopt a plan|
|Fall 2011||All plans drawn by the legislature, the Legislative Redistricting Board, or a state district court must obtain preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act|
|June–December 2011||Possible court challenges to redistricting plans|
|January 2, 2012||Filing deadline for 2012 elections|
|March 6, 2012||Primary elections|
The Texas Politics Multimedia Textbook produced by the University of Texas at Austin provides the following historical perspective on redistricting in Texas:
The Texas Constitution of 1876 required that the Legislature pass a redistricting plan during the first session after the publication of the decennial national census of the population. However, the Legislature sometimes did not follow through on this obligation. This resulted in the under-representation of the people in those districts where population grew faster than the rest of the state. The failure to redistrict favored the rural areas at the expense of Texas's growing urban centers. The latter's faster population growth meant they deserved additional seats in the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress.
Because of the great imbalance in representation that had developed over the decades, an amendment was adopted in 1948 that gave the Legislature extra incentive to carry out their obligations as specified under the original Constitution. Under this amendment, if in the first legislative session after the publication of the decennial census of the population a redistricting plan was not adopted, the responsibility passed to the Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB)...The prospect of the LRB determining district boundaries represented a significant incentive to the Legislature to seriously engage its redistricting obligation, as a LRB-authored plan would diminish significantly lawmakers' control over their own re-election fates.
Texas undertook a controversial mid-decade redistricting plan in 2003. The plan, titled 1374 C, was legally contested numerous times and was heard by the United States Supreme Court. The plan was spearheaded by then US Representative Tom Delay (R). Republicans claimed that the district maps that were developed during the 2000 decennial cycle did not accurately reflect the demographic and political make-up of the state. While not standard practice, it is within the law for states to redistrict in between decennial cycles.
2003 Texas redistricting and Tom DeLay
The Texas Constitution provides authority to the Legislature for redistricting in Section 28 of Article 3. If the Legislature fails to meet its deadline, Section 28 provides authority for the creation of the Legislative Redistricting Board of Texas.
- State Legislative and Congressional Redistricting after the 2010 Census
- State-by-state redistricting procedures
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