After the 2010 census showed that Texas' population had grown by over four million new residents, the state reapportioned and redrew the state's legislative and congressional districts, including the creation of four new congressional districts it was entitled to. Because it was a covered jurisdiction under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Texas had to submit its new districting plans to the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for preclearance before they could become effective. As the preclearance process was ongoing, several different plaintiffs filed various federal lawsuits in Texas alleging that the state's new plans discriminated against African-Americans and Latinos and diluted their voting strength in violation of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. As the litigation process proceeded, it became clear that the State's new districting plans would not obtain preclearance in time for the upcoming 2012 primary elections, and the State's old districting plans could not be reused due to Texas' population growth. Due to this, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas was tasked with creating interim plans for use in the 2012 elections. After receiving proposals from the parties and holding extensive hearings, the District Court issued its interim plans which departed considerably from those originally enacted by the State. The District Court's view was that it "was not required to give any deference to the Legislature's enacted plan" and it instead applied principles that it determined "place the interests of the citizens of Texas first." The State of Texas appealed the District Court's interim plans to the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that they were unnecessarily consistent with the State's enacted plans.

In January 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State, finding that the District Court's interim plans unnecessarily deviated too far from the State's enacted plans. Emphasizing that reapportionment and redistricting are primarily legislative functions, the court explained that legislatively enacted plans represent important policy judgments about representation that the legislature, not the court, is best suited to decide, and the court cannot choose to follow or ignore those decisions as it sees fit. In the absence of any indication that an enacted redistricting plan or any part thereof is unlawful, the court's interim plans must adhere to the state's legislatively enacted plans. Because it was unclear whether the District Court followed the appropriate standards when making their interim plans, the Court vacated the District Court's order issuing the plans and remanded the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.


U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division - No. SA-11-cv-360

U.S. Supreme Court - Nos. 11-713; 11-714; 11-715 [565 U.S. 388 (2012)]