By adopting court-created remedial interim redistricting plans, did the Texas legislature engage in intentional racial discrimination, vote dilution, and racial gerrymandering in violation of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act, and does the Court have jurisdiction to hear the case?
After a federal court struck down the Texas State Legislature’s redistricting plans as racially discriminatory and issued substantially similar interim plans for the 2012 election, the Legislature adopted those interim plans as law. However, Texas Voters (both individual voters and organizations) claim that these plans are still infected by discriminatory intent and effect. Texas argues that its Legislature did not engage in racial discrimination, vote dilution, or racial gerrymandering. Further, Texas insists that when its new Legislature repealed the old plans and adopted court-created new plans, any purported discriminatory intent was eliminated. Voters counter that the Supreme Court should adhere to the lower court’s finding of discrimination, which was not cleansed by a legislative workaround that essentially reenacted the original, problematic plans. This case requires the Supreme Court to determine when a state legislature exhibits a discriminatory intent in reconfiguring its electoral districts and how deeply that intent permeates into subsequent legislation. Further, this case may redefine the parameters for courts to evaluate redistricting, balancing the needs to protect voters’ rights and preserve state sovereignty.
Questions as Framed for the Court by the Parties
1) Whether the district court issued an appealable interlocutory injunction when it invalidated Texas’ duly enacted redistricting plan and ordered the parties to appear at a remedial hearing to redraw state congressional districts unless the governor called a special legislative session to redraw the congressional map within three days; (2) whether the Texas legislature acted with an unlawful purpose when it enacted a redistricting plan originally imposed by the district court to remedy any potential constitutional and statutory defects in a prior legislative plan that was repealed without ever having taken effect; (3) whether the Texas legislature engaged in intentional vote dilution when it adopted Congressional District 27 in 2013 after the district court found, in 2012, that CD27 did not support a plausible claim of racially discriminatory purpose and did not dilute Hispanic voting strength because it was not possible to create an additional Hispanic opportunity district in the region; and (4) whether the Texas legislature engaged in racial gerrymandering in Congressional District 35 when it simply adopted the district unchanged as part of the court-ordered remedial plan.
- Adam Liptak: Justices to Hear Cases on Voting Rights and Internet Taxes, The New York Times (Jan. 12, 2018).
- Abbott v. Perez, Brennan Center for Justice (Apr. 4, 2018).