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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

Note: The Bren­nan Center is not a parti­cipant in this case.

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)