Nearly 90% of Texas’ population growth from 2000-2010 was amongst people of color, and yet they lost representation in the redistricting plans that followed the 2010 Census.  This was the result of intentionally discriminatory line drawing. This practice is wrong and we are now fighting for fair maps in the Supreme Court.

So how did we get here?

After the 2010 census, Texas gained four new Congressional seats, almost entirely due to the growth of its non-white population. In 2011, the state legislature redrew its congressional and state legislative districts map to reflect the population increase. However, due to its history of discriminatory voting practices, the state was subject to preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). In compliance with VRA, the state sought approval of its plans in the District Court for the District of Columbia.

At the same time, various groups of plaintiffs challenged Texas’s 2011 proposed redistricting for the Texas House and for Congress. The plaintiffs alleged the Texas House and Congressional maps were:

  • Intentionally racially discriminatory in violation of the Constitution and the VRA;
  • Unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, and;
  • Yielded discriminatory results in violation of the VRA.

With the 2012 elections rapidly approaching, and no preclearance from the D.C. Court on the 2011 plan, the Texas district court was required to draw interim map plans to be used for the 2012 elections.

Following the rejection of the first interim plan and a 2012 appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the district court was required to be highly deferential to the lines drawn by the legislature in 2011 until a final decision about the constitutionality of the districts was determined. The district court made clear that the interim plan contained several districts that were an exact match to the 2011 plan and could very well still be determined to be discriminatory upon a full review of the evidence at trial.

In June 2013, shortly before the Supreme Court invalidated the coverage formula for Section 5 with its decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the legislature passed bills repealing the 2011 plans, and enacting in their place the interim plans used for the 2012 elections, with minor changes to the state house plan. The day after the Shelby County decision was announced, the Governor signed the legislation.

Plaintiffs amended their complaints to raise claims against the 2013 plans, and to assert a claim for relief under Section 3(c) of the VRA, to require Texas to be “bailed in” to the preclearance regime as a consequence of its intentionally discriminatory redistricting plans.

(Read more about preclearance.)

The district court held trials on the 2011 and 2013 plans.

The court concluded that the 2011 plans:

  • were intentionally discriminatory with respect to a number of districts because they purposely cracked and packed minority voters to dilute their voting strength;
  • were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders with respect to several districts; and,
  • contained violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, both in intent and effects, with respect to several districts.

Following a trial on the 2013 plan, the district court concluded that the state contineud to act with discriminatory intent, and that the unlawful districts in the 2011 plan that were retained in the 2013 plan remained unlawful.

Ultimately, it is those districts at the crux of the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.

The State of Texas now contends that because the district court did not alter those voting districts when it allowed the interim plans to be used in 2012, the district court was wrong to conclude the districts were unlawful.


Related documents or filings can be found at the Brennan Center:

More information on the case can be found here: