KEY CONCEPTS BACKGROUND

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1 REDISTRICTING TEXAS: A PRIMER Michael J. Gaudini Master of Public Affairs Candidate LBJ School of Public Affairs KEY CONCEPTS Redistricting. Political districts are redrawn after the decennial census in order to account for population shifts and maintain the principle of one person, one vote. The new districts are supposed to be redrawn to make sure districts are roughly equal in population. In Texas, the state legislature redistricts its own seats, as well as congressional seats. The redistricting plans pass like any other bill. Gerrymandering. Redistricting is an inherently political process, and lawmakers often redraw political boundaries to favor their party. The term dates back to the early 1812, when Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts signed into law a redistricting plan that helped his Democratic- Republican Party. The plan contained a district that was so contorted that it resembled a salamander. His opponents quickly dubbed it the Gerry- mander. Preclearance. Texas is one of several states with a history of voter discrimination that must submit changes in election law to the federal government for approval under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. States can seek preclearance either through the Department of Justice (the usual route) or through federal court. BACKGROUND Every decade, state lawmakers gather together in Austin to redraw Texas political boundaries and determine which groups of people they will represent over the following decade. This process is known as redistricting. At its most basic level, redistricting helps legislators make sure that each state lawmaker represents about as many Texans as his or her colleagues, a principle known as one person, one vote. But it can also provide the majority party with the opportunity to redraw the political boundaries in their favor. Legislators can and do solidify their electoral advantage by adding supporters into their own districts and minimizing the number of seats the minority party could reasonably win. Redistricting in a way that gives one party an inherent political advantage is known as gerrymandering. Because redistricting can provide the majority party with a crucial advantage in elections, the process is fairly contentious. One of the more controversial redistrictings in recent history occurred in 2003, after the Republican Party won control of the state legislature for the first time since Reconstruction. After years of

2 Democratic dominance, the new Republican majority looked to lock down its control with a mid- decade redistricting. Each state has its own way of redistricting legislative seats. In Texas, redistricting legislation passes like any other bill: lawmakers in the House and Senate file the bill, committees in both chambers hear testimony and vote on the bill, and then the full House and Senate vote on final passage. In 2003, the Texas Democrats knew they did not have the numbers to defeat the mid- decade redistricting legislation if it came up for votes in the House and Senate. So, first the Texas House Democrats (the Killer Ds ) and then the Texas Senate Democrats (the Texas Eleven ) fled the state in order to prevent quorum and stop the Republican majority from passing new redistricting plans. Eventually, however, the Democrats returned and the redistricting plans passed. Soon after, the Democrats advantage in the U.S. House of Representatives turned into a Republican advantage. 1 Texas has engaged in redistricting ever since it entered the United States in 1845, though the process has since evolved greatly through both legislative changes and judicial rulings. Before the 1950s, lawmakers only redistricted periodically even though they were supposed to redistrict at least once per decade, after the federal government released its census information. 2 After the Texas legislature failed to redistrict the state s political lines in both the 1930s and 1940s, voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1948 creating a Legislative Redistricting Board. This board is tasked with redrawing district lines in case the legislature fails to act or the legislature s plan is invalidated or vetoed within 90 days of the regular session s end. However, the board has rarely had to carry out their redistricting responsibilities. 3 A series of court rulings in the 1960s and 1970s also fundamentally altered redistricting in Texas. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court enshrined equal representation and the principle of one person, one vote in the case Reynolds v. Sims. This case, along with later court rulings, forced Texas to abandon its restriction that only one senator could represent a county and invalidated multi- member and overlapping legislative districts. 4 Also, the U.S. Congress declared their oversight of Texas redistricting with the Voting Rights Act of Under Section 5 of that law, states with a history of 1 Savage, David. High Court Upholds Texas Redistricting, Los Angeles Times, 29 June Texas Redistricting History, Texas Legislative Council. 3 Legislative Redistricting Board, Texas Legislative Council. 4 Texas Redistricting History, Texas Legislative Council.

3 racial discrimination including Texas must submit any changes in election law to the federal government for approval. This is known as preclearance. States under Section 5 may seek preclearance through the U.S. Department of Justice or the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C. In general, there are few restrictions on how Texas may redistrict. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 established race as one of those restrictions, prohibiting states from drawing maps that discriminate against racial groups. This restriction has become more important as Texas minority populations have grown dramatically. The most recent redistricting demonstrates the importance of race to the redistricting process in Texas. In 2011, the Texas legislature passed redistricting maps and submitted them to a federal court in Washington, D.C. for preclearance. After more than a year, the federal court denied the request, saying that Texas had not proven that the maps were not discriminatory. 5 At the same time the federal court in Washington, D.C. was considering preclearance, several minority groups were suing the state in federal court in San Antonio. These groups contended that the maps were discriminatory and deliberately split up minority communities. 6 The San Antonio court sided with the minority groups and drew interim maps for the state to use until the legislature drew new maps. However, Texas appealed this ruling and the U.S. Supreme Court sided with the state, saying that the federal court had changed the legislature s versions of the maps too much when redrawing them. The San Antonio court then redrew the interim maps again. Texas used these maps for the primary and general elections in The Texas legislature did not consider redistricting legislation during the 83 rd Session in 2013, even though at that point the state was still operating under the temporary court- drawn maps. However, only a few minutes after the House and Senate adjourned on the last day of the 83 rd Regular Session, Governor Rick Perry called a special session to focus on adopting redistricting maps that the state would use for the rest of the decade. 8 5 Ramsey, Ross. Court: Texas Political Maps Don t Protect Minority Vote, Texas Tribune, 28 August Ramsey, Ross. Court Delivers Election Maps for Texas House, Congress, Texas Tribune, 28 February Gillman, Todd, & Jeffers, Gomer. Supreme Court throws out court- drawn Texas redistricting maps, Dallas Morning News, 20 January Philpott, Ben. Agenda Texas: Redistricting Court Battle, Texas Tribune, 28 May 2013.

4 THE NUMBERS The 2010 Census data showed that Texas gained 4.3 million people, which is largely attributable to huge growth in minority populations: 9 MINORITY GROUP Hispanic Black Asian- American PCT. OF POP. GROWTH 65 percent 13.4 percent 10.1 percent After the 2010 Census, Texas gained 4 new congressional seats, pushing it to a total of 36 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. 10 As of April 2012, the redistricting lawsuits for the most recent redistricting had cost Texas nearly $1.5 million TIMELINE JULY Texas opts to ask federal judges in Washington, D.C. to review its proposed redistricting maps instead of the Department of Justice. The proposed maps would redistrict congressional and state legislative districts. Texas still submits the plans to the Department of Justice informally. SEPTEMBER A panel of three federal judges in San Antonio hears challenges to the redistricting maps. Opponents of the maps say the new districts purposefully discriminate against minorities in order to suppress their votes and political power. Proponents of the maps say the districts were drawn to preserve party power for the Republicans (which is legal), not to racially discriminate. It at first seems like the San Antonio court will have to wait until after the Washington, D.C. rules on the validity of the Texas maps before it can issue its own ruling. OCTOBER The Department of Justice files a brief with the Washington, D.C. court saying the Texas maps are discriminatory. NOVEMBER With the primaries approaching, the San Antonio court moves forward and issues its ruling. In their decision, the San Antonio judges reject 9 Texas redistricting discriminates against minorities, federal court says, Washington Post, 28 August Census 11 On the Records: Texas Legal Spending on Redistricting, Texas Tribune, 6 April 2012.

5 the Texas redistricting plans and present their own, redrawn Texas Senate and House maps. Texas Republicans argue the maps favor Democrats. DECEMBER The U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Texas Republicans appeal of the San Antonio judges redrawing of their redistricting maps. Due to the confusion over the districts, the Texas primary election is pushed back to April JANUARY The U.S. Supreme Court rejects the San Antonio federal court s redrawn maps. The unanimous, unsigned decision sends the maps back down to the San Antonio court with instructions to respect the state legislature s maps as a starting point when redrawing the maps in the future. FEBRUARY The state reaches an agreement with the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force on a potential interim congressional map. Other minority groups push back, and the San Antonio court orders all involved parties to continue talks over a compromise plan. The primary ends up being pushed back yet again, to May 29. With a Washington, D.C. decision still far away, the San Antonio court releases its interim redistricting maps. MAY The Texas primary elections are held using the interim maps. AUGUST The Washington, D.C. judges reject Texas redistricting plan. The San Antonio judges say the interim maps they drew for the primary election will remain in place for the general election as well. SEPTEMBER The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) tries to get the U.S. Supreme Court to block the use of the interim maps for the general election. The U.S. Supreme Court denies LULAC s request and allows the interim maps to be used in the November election. NOVEMBER Texas holds the general election. The U.S. Supreme Court announces that it will hear a challenge to Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act JANUARY The Texas legislature convenes for regular session, but does not consider redistricting legislation, even though the state is still operating under the temporary, court- drawn maps. MAY The regular session ends. Minutes later, Governor Rick Perry calls a special session to deal with redistricting.

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