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Court Case

Abbott v. Perez

A challenge to Texas’s 2011 state legislative and congressional redistricting plan contends the maps were drawn with an unconstitutional discriminatory intent as well as violate the Voting Rights Act.

Published: August 2, 2019

Case Background

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.

Between 2000 and 2010, Latinos and African-Americans accounted for nearly 90 percent of Texas’ population growth, which resulted in the state received four additional congressional seats and required significant changes to both the state house and congressional maps. The plaintiffs argue that when the state redrew its congressional and legislative plans, it did not act in good faith to achieve population equity, and instead, intentionally diluted Latino and African-American voting strength. In addition, some of the plaintiffs argue that the state failed in both plans to create all of the majority-minority districts required by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

As a remedy, the plaintiffs argue that Texas should be required to redraw the maps to create additional electoral opportunities for Latino and African-American voters and that, because the state’s actions were intentional, that Texas should be placed back under preclearance coverage under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. The state asserts the plaintiffs failed to present sufficient facts to demonstrate that minority voters would have suffered “an immediate or threatened injury as a result of the challenged [districts].”

While the challenged maps were pending preclearance, in 2012, the district court ordered interim maps for the congressional and state house districts. Texas subsequently adopted the interim maps on a permanent basis in 2013 – but some of the plaintiffs contend that those maps still have a discriminatory effect against minority voters. 

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 (TX-23, TX-26, TX-27, and TX-35) 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 ruled in a 2-1 decision that a number of districts in the 2011 state house plan resulted in intentional vote dilution in violation of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. The court also found several districts violated one-person, one-vote requirements and that one district in San Antonio had been drawn as a racial gerrymander. 

The court held trial on the 2013 state house and congressional plans on July 10-15. 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. The court's ruling gave the State of Texas until August 18 to advise whether it would hold a special session on redistricting to redraw the congressional plan and, in the event the state chose not to redistrict provisionally, set a remedial hearing for September 5.

On August 18, the state filed an appeal of the ruling on the congressional map and asked the court to stay any remedial proceedings. The court denied the request for a stay in a text order later that day.  

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 gave the state until August 29 to indicate whether it would hold a special session of the Texas Legislature to redraw the map and set a remedial hearing for September 6 in the event the state chose not to redistrict. 

On August 25, the state filed an appeal to the Supreme Court and a motion asking the Court to halt the redrawing of the congressional map. On August 28, Justice Alito temporarily stayed remedial proceedings in connection with the congressional map pending further order of the Court and directed plaintiffs to file a response to the request for a stay by Tuesday, September 5. On August 31, Justice Alito also temporarily stayed remedial proceedings in connection with the state house map pending further order of the Court.

On September 12, the Supreme Court granted the stays and halted the redrawing of maps pending appeal. The Texas Democratic Party and Quesada plaintiffs also filed appeals of the court's earlier rulings dismissing its partisan gerrymandering claims on September 14.

On January 12, the Supreme Court 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.

On June 25, in a 5-4 decision, the Court reversed the lower court’s findings that the state legislature intentionally discriminated against Latino and African-American voters in adopting the 2013 congressional and state house maps. In addition, the Court reversed findings of violations of the Voting Rights Act and racial gerrymandering, holding that only one of the challenged state house districts, HD90, was an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.

On August 30, the panel deferred the redrawing of the boundaries of HD90 to the legislature. The legislature, however, did not introduce a remedial plan by the court-set deadline. On May 28, 2019, the panel ordered modifications to HD90 to take effect for the next set of elections.

On July 24, 2019, the panel denied the plaintiffs’ request for bail-in under Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act.

Documents

District Court

U.S. Supreme Court Appeal (2011 appeal over interim maps)

District Court (on remand 2016-2017)

U.S. Supreme Court (2017 stay motion & request to expedite briefing)

U.S. Supreme Court 

17-586 (State of Texas' appeal of ruling on congressional maps)

Jurisdictional Stage 

Merits Stage 

Amicus Briefs in Support of Appellants 

Amicus Briefs in Support of Appellees 

17-626 (State of Texas' appeal of ruling on state house maps) 

Jurisdictional Stage

Merits Stage 

Amicus Briefs in Support of Appellants 

Amicus Briefs in Support of Appellees 

17-680 (Quesada and Texas Democratic Party Plaintiffs' appeal of ruling on congressional maps) 

Jurisdictional Stage

17-780 (John T. Morris Plaintiff appeal of ruling on congressional maps) 

District Court (on remand 2018)