These Supreme Court cases arose from the Texas Legislature’s notorious “re-redistricting” of the state’s congressional districts in the middle of the decade for the express purpose of maximizing the number of Republicans in the Texas delegation. Re-redistricting is a particularly egregious form of the partisan gerrymanders, implemented by both major parties, which makes it nearly impossible for voters to throw out the governing party. Until 2003, no state had attempted to redistrict mid-decade since the Supreme Court’s “one person, one vote” decisions mandated regular decennial redistricting in all states. Re-redistricting in Colorado and Texas in 2003 threatened to start a damaging trend. In 2003, the Colorado Supreme Court invalidated the legislature’s attempt to re-redistrict that state in Salazar v. Davidson.
Following the 2000 census, the Texas legislature could not agree on a redistricting plan, so a federal court drew a new map that the state’s own experts said was slightly biased in favor of Republicans. The 2002 election gave the Republican Party control of the state legislature. In 2003, the new Republican majority began a second redistricting process, creating a second map after the 2000 census. In the 2004 U.S. House elections, Texas Republicans gained five seats.
Several court cases challenging the legality of the plan were filed following the 2003 legislative re-redistricting. The Brennan Center filed an amicus brief before the three-judge federal district court in one of those cases, Session v. Perry. The brief argued that by acting for purely partisan purposes in replacing a valid, legal map that the state had no need to replace, the legislature violated several state and federal constitutional provisions, including voters’ rights to free speech, equal protection, and a meaningful vote. It also contended that the extreme partisan bias of the new map would violate the state and federal constitutions, even if it had been adopted at the beginning of the decade. The district court upheld the redistricting plan and that decision was appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court vacated the ruling and remanded the case in light of Vieth v. Jubelirer, a gerrymandering case out of Pennsylvania. Upon remand, the district court again upheld the redistricting plan.
That case is again before the United States Supreme Court, and has been consolidated with several other cases challenging the Texas re-redistricting plan. The Brennan Center filed an amicus brief before the Supreme Court arguing that Texas‘ re-redistricting plan is unconstitutional because it was admittedly and openly done solely for partisan advantage.
The decision was handed down in June of 2006. While the Court failed to conclude that the mid-decade redistricting is unconstitutional, it did find that the redrawing of the boundary lines for one of the districts constituted impermissible vote dilution under the Voting Rights Act.