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Texas Redistricting: A Timeline

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., March 9, 2012

When did the current redistricting fight start? Arguably during the 2011 legislative session, when Republicans rammed through House, Senate, and Congressional maps that were bound to fail legal tests under the Voting Rights Act and the 14th Amendment. Or it could have been last November, when a federal three-judge panel threw out those maps and drew its own districts. Or Jan. 20, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned those maps and ordered the court to start again.

The reality is that this chapter started on Nov. 4, 2008, when Barack Obama was elected president. On that night, Democrats were already discussing how the change would affect redistricting, since this would be the first time since passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that a Democrat would hold the White House in a Texas redistricting year. That meant an inevitable fight between the Republican-dominated Legislature and a Democratic U.S. attorney general. Yet this is far from the first time that Texas – under either Republicans and Democrats – has found itself in federal court facing accusations of gerrymandering.

1964Reynolds v. Sims: The U.S. Supreme Court instructs that districts must be measured by population, not geography. Old rules had led to some Senate districts being up to eight times more populous than others.

1967Kilgarlin v. Hill: SCOTUS orders another redistricting after invalidating some districts drawn in 1965 after Reynolds v. Sims.

1971Smith v. Craddick: The Texas Supreme Court rules a new House apportionment law unconstitutional because it unnecessarily splits counties into multiple seats. That same year, in Mauzy v. Legislative Redistricting Board, the court orders the board to draw Senate maps after the Legislature fails to create any.

1981Terrazas v. Clements: A coalition of black, Hispanic, and Repub­lican voters argues that Senate maps drawn by the Democratic majority deliberately dilute their votes and ignore communities of interest.

1995Thomas v. Bush: A federal court accepts an agreement redrawing eight Senate and 36 House seats after accusations of gerrymandering.

1996Bush v. Vera: SCOTUS upholds a lower-court decision throwing out three Congressional districts after the state unsuccessfully argued that their "bizarre shape" was designed to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

2001 – Democrats and Republicans fail to agree on new maps after the 2000 Census, leaving the matter to the courts.

2003 – After winning both the House and Senate, Republicans break with the standard, 10-year redistricting calendar to push through a heavily gerrymandered map (presumed to be at the behest of since-disgraced Tom DeLay). Without the votes to overturn it, Democratic lawmakers twice flee the state in a quorum-busting endeavor, but their attempts to delay the inevitable fail.

2005 – Department of Justice lawyers find that the 2003 maps violate the Voting Rights Act.

2006League of United Latin American Citizens v. Perry: The U.S. Supreme Court upholds much of the 2003 Congressional plan, but orders the lower courts to redraw CD 23 – held by Republican Henry Bonilla – for its violation of the racial gerrymandering terms of the Voting Rights Act.

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