The State of Redistricting Litigation (Late February 2018 Edition)
A round up of where key redistricting cases across the country stand.
At the beginning of 2018, Pennsylvania’s congressional map and the state legislative map in North Carolina were ruled unconstitutional and redrawn for the 2018 elections. However, these maps, along with maps in six other states, are still facing litigation challenges and are not yet final.
Six cases are currently at the U.S. Supreme Court. By June, the Court is likely to decide three cases – from Wisconsin, Texas, and Maryland – that could lay the foundation for what maps will look like in 2018 and 2020.
Here’s a roundup of where the cases stand:
Wisconsin: Gill v. Whitford
Perhaps the biggest case of the 2017-18 Supreme Court term is a landmark partisan gerrymandering appeal from Wisconsin, which has given the Supreme Court its first opportunity in over a decade to rule on the constitutionality of partisan gerrymandering.
In November 2016, a panel of three federal judges declared that the state assembly plan adopted by Wisconsin’s Republican-controlled legislature in 2011 was an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander that violated both the Equal Protection Clause and the plaintiffs’ First Amendment freedom of association. The ruling was the first time in over three decades that a federal court invalidated a redistricting plan for partisan bias.
To evaluate the constitutionality of the map, the panel applied a three-part test that asked whether the map had discriminatory intent, had a discriminatory effect, and if there were some other legitimate reason, like the natural political geography of the state, that the map had a partisan skew. The panel concluded that the map displayed both bad intent and bad effect, citing evidence that the map drawers used special partisan measurements to ensure that the map maximized Republican advantages in assembly seats. Despite Democrats winning a majority of the statewide assembly vote in 2012 and 2014, Republicans won at least sixty of the ninety-nine assembly seats in each election.
Wisconsin Republicans dispute that they intentionally engineered a biased map, arguing that partisan skews in the map reflect a natural geographic advantage the party has in redistricting as a result of Democrats clustering in cities and Republicans spreading out more evenly throughout the state. The court, however, concluded that the state’s natural political geography “does not explain adequately the sizeable disparate effect” seen in the previous two elections.
Wisconsin filed an appeal to the Supreme Court on February 24, 2017, and the Court heard oral arguments in the case on October 3. The Court also granted the state’s request to stay the remedial map-drawing process while it considers the case.
The Court’s decision in the case is expected to be announced before the end of June.
Key pleadings for Gill v. Whitford can be found here.
Maryland: Benisek v. Lamone
An appeal also is pending at the Supreme Court in a challenge to the alleged partisan gerrymandering of Maryland’s 2011 congressional map.
In Benisek v. Lamone, the plaintiffs argue that the congressional map adopted by the Democratic-controlled legislature in 2011 violates Republican voters’ representational and associational rights guaranteed by the First Amendment because lawmakers deliberately targeted and punished voters who supported Republican candidates when drawing district lines.
According to the plaintiffs, lawmakers intentionally used information about voters’ histories and party affiliations to move large numbers of Republican voters out of the state’s Sixth Congressional District and move large numbers of Democratic voters in, thus flipping the district from a reliable Republican seat into a safe Democratic one.
The three-judge panel hearing the case denied the state’s motion to dismiss and held that a map could be an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander if the plaintiffs could satisfy a three-part test laid out by the court.
In August 2017, the district court denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction blocking use of the maps. The court also entered an order staying any further proceedings in the case pending a decision by the Supreme Court in Gill v. Whitford. The plaintiffs filed an appeal asking the Supreme Court to review the decision not to preliminarily enjoin the map.
On December 8, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the appeal. Oral argument at the Supreme Court is scheduled to take place on March 28.
Key pleadings for Benisek v. Lamone can be found here.
In North Carolina, three separate cases are challenging the 2016 remedial congressional plan, which the North Carolina legislature adopted to replace an earlier plan that the courts struck down as a racial gerrymander.
Harris v. Cooper (formerly known as Harris v. McCrory)
Harris v. Cooper is an appeal at the Supreme Court that arises from objections that plaintiffs lodged to a remedial map put in place following their victory in a racial gerrymandering suit. The plaintiffs argued at the district court that the new map should be enjoined because it merely replaced an unconstitutional racial gerrymander with an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. (For more on the racial gerrymandering case that spawned this dispute, see Cooper v. Harris, below.)
The three-judge panel denied the plaintiffs’ objections, ruling that the court could not “resolve this question based on the record before it,” and the plaintiffs appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Justices have not yet indicated whether they will hear the case and, so far, have not listed the case for conference this term.
Key pleadings for Harris v. Cooper can be found here.
Groups of plaintiffs led by the League of Women Voters and Common Cause filed two cases challenging North Carolina’s 2016 remedial map on partisan gerrymandering grounds.
On January 9, the court struck down the map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander and blocked the state from using the plan for future elections. The court directed that the North Carolina legislature adopt a remedial plan and directed that any such plan be filed with the court by January 29. Because of upcoming election deadlines, the court also ordered that the parties propose special masters to redraw the map in the event the court rejects any legislatively enacted remedial map.
The legislative defendants filed an emergency motion to stay the remedial map drawing process pending the Supreme Court’s decisions in Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone. On January 18, the Court issued an order staying the district court’s decision, including the remedial map process, pending appeal.
Jurisdictional briefing in the case is expected to conclude at the end of April, after which the Supreme Court will decide whether to hear the case.
Key pleadings for Rucho v. League of Women Voters of North Carolina can be found here.
Key pleadings for Rucho v. Common Cause can be found here.
Three lawsuits (two in federal court and one in state court) are challenging Pennsylvania’s 2011 congressional map as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander, alleging that Republicans used their legislative control to crack and pack Democratic-affiliated voters into specific districts in order to minimize the representational rights of Democratic voters. After the state supreme court issued a new congressional map, Republican state and federal lawmakers filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the use of a new map.
The League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania and a group of Democratic Pennsylvania voters filed suit on June 15, 2017 to have the state’s 2011 congressional map invalidated as an illegal partisan gerrymander under the state constitution.
In addition to asking that the state be blocked from using the map for future elections, the plaintiffs ask that the Pennsylvania General Assembly be enjoined from considering political data – including party membership, registration, affiliation, and political activities – in drawing future maps if such use would penalize or burden a group or individual voters based on their political beliefs.
After the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania granted the General Assembly’s application to stay all proceedings pending the Supreme Court’s decision in Gill v. Whitford, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court assumed extraordinary jurisdiction over the case to ensure a resolution in time for the 2018 elections.
On January 22, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court struck down the 2011 congressional map as unconstitutional and enjoined the map for the 2018 elections. The court ordered that the General Assembly submit a new congressional plan to the court with the governor's approval by February 15.
On February 13, Governor Tom Wolf rejected the congressional map proposed by Republican legislative leaders because it did not comply with either the Court’s January 22 Order or the state constitution. The Governor stated the proposed map was an impermissible partisan gerrymandering pushed forward by Republican legislative leaders, and not passed by the full General Assembly.
Because the legislature and the governor did not agree on a map, the court adopted a new congressional plan on February 19. On February 22, Pennsylvania legislative leaders filed an application asking the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to stay its ruling.
On February 27, the court denied the legislative leaders' application for stay. On February 27, the legislative leaders filed a second application for stay to block the new congressional map at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Update: On March 19, the Court denied the legislative leaders' second application for stay.
Key pleadings for League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania can be found here.
On February 22, 2018, eight of Pennsylvania’s Republican members of the U.S. House, along with the majority leader of Pennsylvania senate and the chair of the senate state government committee, filed suit in federal district court in Harrisburg, seeking to block Pennsylvania from using the new congressional map put in place by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court in League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The suit contends that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court acted in violation of the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution when it required that any map adopted during the remedial process comply with redistricting criteria specified in the court’s order. The suit also contends that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court failed to give lawmakers adequate time to adopt a remedial plan.
The court has scheduled a hearing on the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary injunction for March 9.
Update: On March 19, the court denied the plaintiffs’ motion to preliminarily enjoin the state from conducting the 2018 elections under the new congressional map and dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint with prejudice for lack of standing.
Key pleadings for Corman v. Torres can be found here.
Four Pennsylvania citizens contend in a federal lawsuit that the state’s 2011 congressional map is an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander. The plaintiffs argue that the map violates the Elections Clause of the U.S. Constitution, as well as the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs have asked the court to redraw the districts before the 2018 congressional elections.
On November 15, 2017, the three-judge panel denied the legislative defendants' motion to dismiss the plaintiffs' claim under the Elections Clause. However, the court dismissed the plaintiffs' equal protection claim with prejudice and dismissed their First Amendment claim. The plaintiffs filed an amended First Amendment claim, which the court dismissed on November 30.
On January 10, 2018, in a 2-1 judgment, the court rejected the plaintiffs' remaining claims. The plaintiffs filed a notice of appeal to the Supreme Court on January 18.
Key pleadings for Agre v. Wolf can be found here.
A group of Pennsylvania residents who are Democrats filed a suit against state elections officials, contending that the state’s 2011 congressional map is a partisan gerrymander in violation of the Elections Clause, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs allege the Republican legislature drew the map with the intent of maximizing Republican power by cracking and packing Democratic-affiliated voters into specific districts to dilute their voting power and deny them a realistic opportunity to elect their candidates of choice.
The plaintiffs have asked the court to expeditiously declare the congressional plan invalid and issue an injunction prohibiting the legislature from administering any elections under the plan for 2018.
On January 11, the legislative defendants filed a motion to dismiss and motion to stay or abstain from hearing the case pending resolution of Gill v. Whitford, Benisek v. Lamone, and League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. On January 23, the court granted the motion to stay.
Key pleadings for Diamond v. Torres can be found here.
The League of Women Voters of Michigan and eleven Democratic voters filed a lawsuit in federal district court contending that Michigan's 2011 state legislative and congressional maps are unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders in violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments. The plaintiffs argue that the legislature unconstitutionally marginalized Democratic constituencies by cracking and packing Democratic voters while efficiently spreading Republican voters across safe Republican districts.
The plaintiffs have asked the court to strike down the maps and establish new maps if the legislature does not pass a constitutional redistricting plan.
The defendant, Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson, has asked the court to stay proceedings in the case pending the Supreme Court’s decisions in Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone. The defendant argued that the court should dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims for lack of standing if the court does not stay the proceedings.
On January 23, Defendant Secretary of State Ruth Johnson filed a motion to stay further proceedings pending the resolution of Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone at the Supreme Court, and a motion to dismiss for a lack of standing.
Update: On March 14, the court denied the defendant's motion to stay proceedings pending the resolution of Gill v. Whitford and Benisek v. Lamone. The court scheduled oral argument for the defendant's motion to dismiss for March 19.
Key pleadings for League of Women Voters of Michigan v. Johnson can be found here.
In addition to the three North Carolina partisan gerrymandering cases discussed above, two cases contend that North Carolina’s 2011 legislative and congressional maps were racial gerrymanders, and one case challenges the constitutionality of the 2017 remedial map. An additional racial gerrymandering case concluded last May.
In North Carolina v. Covington, North Carolina asked the Supreme Court to reverse the ruling from a panel of three federal judges that 28 of the state’s legislative districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.
In August 2016, the panel unanimously agreed with the plaintiffs that the 2011 state map was designed to weaken the influence of black voters by unnecessarily increasing the percentage of black voters in districts where they had previously been successful in electing their candidates of choice.
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the trial court and remanded the case to the trial court to reconsider the proper remedy. The state filed the remedial plan adopted by the North Carolina legislature in September.
After holding a hearing on the remedial plans, the court appointed a special master to prepare a report and redraw two senate districts and seven house districts that the court believed were legally infirm.
The special master filed his recommended plan and an accompanying report on December 1, 2017.
On January 19, the court approved the state’s 2017 plan as modified by the special master’s recommended plans. The legislative defendants filed an emergency motion to stay the district court’s decision to enjoin the special master’s recommendations to the 2017 plan pending Supreme Court review. The court has yet to rule on the motion to stay. The legislative defendants filed their notice of appeal to the Supreme Court on January 23.
On February 6, the Supreme Court granted the application for stay in part and denied it in part, staying the remedial map’s revisions to state legislative districts in Wake and Mecklenburg County pending appeal but allowing other changes to go into effect.
Plaintiffs in Dickson v. Rucho (see below) asked the Wake County Superior Court to redraw the new districts in Wake County that the plaintiffs in Covington challenged. Since the 2011 legislative map had been redrawn in Covington, the court ruled that no further remedy in the case could be offered and declared the plaintiffs’ remaining claims moot.
In response to the court’s ruling, a group of civil rights organizations in North Carolina filed a lawsuit in North Carolina State Conference of NAACP Branches v. Lewis challenging the constitutionality of the new 2017 districts in Wake County.
Key pleadings for North Carolina v. Covington can be found here.
The third pending North Carolina racial gerrymandering case, Dickson v. Rucho, arises from a state court challenge to North Carolina’s 2011 congressional and legislative maps.
In Dickson, the plaintiffs contend that North Carolina’s maps violated state and federal law and were racially gerrymandered. The plaintiffs allege the legislature used a racial proportionality target in order to determine the number of majority-minority districts that would be drawn, and required that each district meet a fixed 50% black voting age population (BVAP) percentage target. The legislature attempted to justify its actions as necessary to avoid violating Sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA).
In a 4-2 decision, the North Carolina Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that complying with the VRA was a compelling interest for the legislature when drawing its maps, and ruled that the challenged districts were constitutional.
On appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court remanded for further proceedings. The state court again ruled against the plaintiffs, however, leading them to file a second petition for Supreme Court review, asking the Court to determine whether Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act requires a jurisdiction to draw a racially proportionate number of majority-black legislative districts each with a BVAP of more than 50%.
The U.S. Supreme Court vacated the North Carolina Supreme Court’s decision below and remanded the case for further consideration in light of its decision in Cooper v. Harris.
In turn, the North Carolina Supreme Court remanded the case to the Wake County Superior Court to determine whether the case is now moot in light of Cooper v. Harris and North Carolina v. Covington, whether there are other issues that require resolution, and whether other relief would be proper.
On February 11, the Wake County Superior Court entered a judgment in the case stating that challenged districts in the 2011 congressional and legislative plan were unconstitutional but holding that no further remedy could be offered by the court since the 2011 maps had already been redrawn. The court declared all of the plaintiffs’ remaining claims moot.
While disputes about the 2011 map were pending, the plaintiffs also raised issues in the Wake County Superior Court about districts in the 2017 remedial plan passed by the North Carolina legislature under order from a federal court in Covington v. North Carolina. Although the federal court had restored the configuration of the challenged districts, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an order staying the ruling with respect to those districts and allowing the 2017 remedial plan to go into effect.
In their emergency motion before the Wake County Superior Court, plaintiffs asked the court to enjoin use of portions of the challenged districts in Wake and Mecklenburg counties on the grounds that the redrawing of districts in those counties violated provisions of the North Carolina constitution. On February 11, the court denied the plaintiffs’ emergency motion in light of a pending appeal before the U.S. Supreme Court involving the same districts.
Shortly after the court’s ruling, civil rights groups in North Carolina filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of four house districts drawn in the 2017 remedial plan.
Key pleadings for Dickson v. Rucho can be found here.
A number of civil rights organizations in North Carolina and Wake County residents filed a challenge to four state house districts in Wake County drawn in the 2017 remedial redistricting plan as a result of North Carolina v. Covington, arguing that the newly drawn districts violate the state constitution’s prohibition against mid-decade redistricting. The plaintiffs claim that lawmakers went beyond what the federal court directed and altered districts that did not need to be redrawn to remedy the racial gerrymanders.
On February 21, the plaintiffs filed a preliminary injunction to enjoin the defendants from conducting election in the four state house districts and have asked that the districts are returned to their 2011 boundaries for the 2018 elections.
Update: A hearing on the motion for preliminary injunction is scheduled for April 6.
Key pleadings for North Carolina State Conference of NAACP Branches v. Lewis can be found here.
Cooper v. Harris (formerly known as McCrory v. Harris)
In Cooper v. Harris, North Carolina asked the Supreme Court to reverse a three-judge panel’s ruling that the state’s original congressional map was a racial gerrymander.
The dispute in the case centered on whether Republican lawmakers unconstitutionally packed African American voters in North Carolina’s 1st and 12th Congressional Districts when redrawing the 2011 map. The panel below agreed with the plaintiffs, ruling that the legislature prioritized race over other redistricting principles and packed minorities into districts where African Americans had long previously elected their preferred candidates with success. North Carolina rejected these rulings, contending that it drew one of the districts to comply with the Voting Rights Act and the other for partisan political advantage.
The state appealed to the Supreme Court last summer and the Justices held oral argument in December at the same time they heard argument in Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections (discussed below).
On May 22, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the panel’s ruling that the 2011 congressional plan was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. Since the map had already been redrawn, the Supreme Court’s decision concluded the case.
Key pleadings in Cooper v. Harris can be found here.
In Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections, African-American voters are challenging legislative districts that they claim unconstitutionally packed African Americans.
In proceedings in district court, a panel of three federal judges ruled that race was a predominant factor in the drawing of one of the state’s African-American districts in the 2011 House of Delegates map, but the legislature’s reliance on race was justified because of the state’s need to comply with the Voting Rights Act. The panel held that race was not a primary consideration in the design of 11 other challenged districts despite the legislature’s imposition of a 55% black voting age population floor for those districts. The Supreme Court held oral argument in December 2016.
On March 1, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-2 decision that the panel had applied the wrong legal standard when concluding that race had not predominated in the drawing of the 11 challenged districts. The Court held that the panel had improperly required plaintiffs to show, as a precondition, that a challenged district was inconsistent with traditional redistricting principles. According to the Court, plaintiffs in racial gerrymandering cases could establish the predominance through a variety of direct and circumstantial evidence and that, even if a district otherwise complied with traditional redistricting principles, it could still be found unconstitutional if evidence established that race was the predominant factor in its creation. The Court remanded the case to the trial court to evaluate the districts under this standard.
The three-judge panel held an evidentiary hearing in October 2017 to consider the parties’ claims on remand. A decision in the case is expected this spring.
Key pleadings for Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections can be found here.
Alabama’s legislative map was also the subject of a racial gerrymandering challenge.
A three-judge panel originally rejected claims of racial gerrymandering. But, in 2015, the Supreme Court reversed in a 5-4 decision and instructed the lower court to reconsider whether the new redistricting map drawn by Alabama’s Republican-led legislature diluted the voting strength of the state’s African Americans by packing them into districts. Although Alabama was under an obligation imposed by the Voting Rights Act not to diminish the effectiveness of existing African-American districts, the Supreme Court concluded that the percentage of the black voting age population necessary to accomplish that end could not be determined by fixed rule but instead required a district-by-district analysis.
On remand, the panel ruled in a 2-1 decision that 12 of the 36 challenged districts were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, but upheld the other 24 districts. The court approved a procedure for the legislature to adopt a new map that corrects the deficiencies in the 12 unconstitutional districts in time for the 2018 elections.
The state legislature approved a remedial redistricting plan on May 19, which it submitted to the court on May 30 in compliance with the court’s order.
On June 13, the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus filed objections to portions of the state legislature’s remedial plans. The Alabama Democratic Caucus, however, said in a separate filing that it was satisfied with the remedial plans and had no further objections.
On October 12, the panel entered an opinion rejecting objections to the remedial plans. The opinion held that Black Caucus lacked standing to object to the specific districts at issue on either racial or partisan gerrymandering grounds. The panel also rejected the objections of proposed intervenors on the grounds that the objections were untimely.
On October 23, the court issued its final judgment, denying objections from the Alabama Legislative Black Caucus and approving the remedial plan. The court closed the case following the final judgment.
Key pleadings for Alabama v. Alabama Legislative Black Caucus can be found here.
Combined Gerrymandering Theories and/or Voting Rights Act
In Georgia, two parallel cases challenging the Georgia’s 2015 mid-decade state house plan have been consolidated on the grounds that both cases assert claims on closely related legal theories.
Last April, the Georgia State Conference of the NAACP filed a complaint against the State of Georgia contending that Republican legislators engaged in both racial and partisan gerrymandering when they executed a mid-decade redistricting of the state’s house map. The lawsuit focuses on two state house districts, which the plaintiffs claim Republicans redrew in 2015 to protect white Republican incumbents and deny African-American voters an equal opportunity to elect their candidates of choice. The plaintiffs are asking a three-judge panel to declare these two districts unconstitutional, order them redrawn, and impose preclearance requirements on Georgia for the next ten years.
The court entered an order dismissing the plaintiffs' section 2 and partisan gerrymandering claims. The order did not address the plaintiffs' racial gerrymandering claims, which remain pending.
After the court consolidated this case with Thompson v. Kemp, (see below), the court ordered discovery to begin on the racial gerrymandering claims. Discovery is scheduled to conclude on March 9.
Key pleadings for Georgia State Conference of the NAACP v. Georgia can be found here.
Thompson v. Kemp (formerly known as Brooks v. Kemp)
Eleven Democratic voters filed a lawsuit against the State of Georgia claiming that the 2015 state house plan violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs claim that Republicans in the General Assembly redesigned two state legislative districts – House Districts 105 and 111 – during a mid-decade redistricting to dilute African-American voting strength. The group also contends that Republicans improperly failed to draw a legislative district in the Atlanta area that could have elected an African-American candidate, and that House Districts 105 and 111 are unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.
The plaintiffs have asked the court to invalidate the districts and order the creation of at least one additional majority-minority district in the metro Atlanta area.
Defendant Brian Kemp filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiffs’ discriminatory intent claim and violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act claim, and raised standing objections. On February 23, the court dismissed the plaintiffs’ discriminatory intent claim and denied the defendants’ motion to dismiss the violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act claim.
Discovery on the racial gerrymandering claims is scheduled to conclude on March 9.
Key pleadings for Thompson v. Kemp can be found here.
Texas: Abbott v. Perez
Individual voters in Texas, alongside organizations representing African Americans and Latinos, filed a series of lawsuits in 2011 alleging Texas’ congressional and state house plans violated the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Several of these suits were later amended to include claims regarding replacement maps adopted by the Texas Legislature in 2013.
On March 10, 2017, the panel issued a ruling on challenges to the 2011 congressional map. The court’s 2-1 decision held that four districts in the plan were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders and that the creation of TX-35 could not be justified by a need to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. The panel also ruled that Texas had unconstitutionally and intentionally packed and cracked minority voters in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and in the creating the configuration of TX-23 in the 2011 congressional plan. However, the court rejected intentional vote dilution claims related to the greater Houston area.
On April 20, the panel issued a 2-1 decision that several districts in the 2011 state house plan were the result of an intentional effort to dilute the voting power of minority communities, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Voting Rights Act. The court also ruled that several districts violated one-person, one-vote requirements and that one district in San Antonio was a racial gerrymander.
The court has not yet ruled on requests that Texas be placed under Section 3 preclearance.
The court held trial on the 2013 state house and congressional plans on July 10-15, 2017. On August 15, the court issued a ruling on the 2013 congressional map holding that TX-27 and TX-35 violated the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. In addition, the court found that enactment of the 2013 congressional plan was intentionally discriminatory. On August 24, the panel issued an opinion finding that the 2013 state house plan violated the Constitution and Voting Rights Act and, in addition, purposefully maintained discriminatory features in the 2011 plan.
The court instructed the State of Texas to indicate whether it would hold a special session on redistricting to redraw the congressional and state house plan and, in the event the state chose not to redistrict provisionally, set a remedial hearing for early September 2017.
The state appealed the rulings on the congressional and state house maps and requested a stay of the remedial process. The Texas Democratic Party and Quesada plaintiffs also filed appeals of the court's earlier rulings dismissing its partisan gerrymandering claims.
The Supreme Court granted the state’s request to stay the remedial processes and agreed to hear the State of Texas' appeals of rulings on the congressional and state house plans. On January 16, the Court dismissed the Quesada plaintiffs' and Texas Democratic Party's partisan-gerrymandering appeal.
Oral argument in the appeals is set for April 24.
Key pleadings for Abbott v. Perez can be found here.
Virginia: Vesilind v. Virginia Board of Elections
In Vesilind v. Virginia Board of Elections, a group of citizens contend that Virginia’s 2011 legislative districts violate the state’s constitution. The plaintiffs argue that the General Assembly improperly subordinated the constitutional requirement of compactness to achieve other political objectives, such as political advantage and incumbent protection.
On March 31, after the Virginia Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings, a Richmond Circuit Court judge issued a ruling upholding the constitutionality of the challenged districts. The plaintiffs appealed that decision to the Virginia Supreme Court, and, on October 24, the court granted their petition of appeal. Oral argument is set to take place on March 1.
Arizona: Leach v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission
Lawmakers and voters in Arizona challenged the state’s congressional maps for violating the state constitution.
Republican legislators and voters filed their first complaint in 2012, alleging the state’s independent redistricting commission did not follow mandatory constitutional guidelines when it drew the 2011 congressional map. The plaintiffs singled out provisions that require map drawers to comply with Sections 2 and 5 of the Voting Rights Act, evaluate the competitiveness of districts, hold a meaningful public comment period, and consider the legislature’s recommendations.
The court dismissed one count in the complaint for failure to state a claim. After the plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint, the Superior Court of Arizona stayed the case pending the U.S. Supreme Court’s resolution of Ariz. State Legs. v. Arizona Independent Commission, a case in which the constitutionality of the commission itself was at question. After the Supreme Court issued an opinion validating Arizona voters’ right to remove the responsibility for redistricting from the state legislature and delegate it to an independent redistricting commission, the plaintiffs filed a third amended complaint claiming the commission failed to comply with constitutional procedures. The court held oral argument on the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment on February 10, and took the matters under advisement.
On March 16, 2017 the Superior Court dismissed the challenges. In a hearing held in July 2017, the court formally closed the case.