MALDEF Victory in District Court Paves Way for Redrawn Congressional and State House Redistricting Plans

SAN ANTONIO, TX – Capping an extensive legal battle, a Texas federal court has issued redistricting plans for both congressional and state house districts for use in 2012 that better reflect the state’s increasingly large Latino electorate.

The court-ordered interim maps maintain the existing Latino-majority districts and also create two additional Latino opportunity districts in the congressional map and one additional Latino opportunity seat in the state house map.

MALDEF filed suit against the State of Texas in June 2011on behalf of the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force (Task Force) in response to maps enacted by the Texas Legislature that failed to reflect Latino growth in the state through the creation of new Latino-majority districts. The suit sought new redistricting plans that are consistent with 2010 Census data, which show that Latinos accounted for 65 percent of the population growth in Texas and are largely responsible for Texas gaining four additional congressional seats.

Thomas A. Saenz, President and General Counsel of MALDEF, stated: “The Voting Rights Act ensures that Latino population growth is recognized and reflected in redistricting plans. By creating additional Latino electoral opportunities, the court’s interim 2012 plans for Congress and Texas House show greater compliance with legal mandate than the execrable maps initially enacted by the state of Texas.”

The new plans were developed as a result of the January 20, 2012 U.S. Supreme Court unanimous ruling in Perez v. Perry that affirmed the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act's preclearance provisions and instructed the district court on requirements for drawing interim Texas congressional, senate and house redistricting plans. In its ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to allow Texas to put its recently-enacted congressional, state senate and state house redistricting plans into effect because they had not been precleared under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act.

After the Perez v. Perry case was filed, the State of Texas filed a separate lawsuit in Washington, D.C. to get the required federal preclearance under the Voting Rights Act. MALDEF also litigated for the right to fair representation of Latino voters in this case, Texas v. United States. Consistent with arguments in Perez v. Perry, MALDEF attorneys sought to demonstrate that the State of Texas discriminated against Latino voters in enacting redistricting plans that have a retrogressive effect on Latinos’ ability to elect candidates of their choice and that were also enacted with a discriminatory purpose.

The San Antonio three-judge panel directed that parties to the litigation attempt to agree upon and present interim plans. MALDEF presented a strong legal case to the court in order to convince it that additional Latino majority districts needed to be created. MALDEF attorneys successfully persuaded the State of Texas to agree to new redistricting plans that create additional Latino majority congressional and State House seats. Ultimately, the district court in Texas reviewed the positions of all the litigants in the case and applied the legal standards set out by the Supreme Court to create the following plans:

Congressional Plan (C226)

The court-ordered interim plan increases by two the number of majority-minority congressional districts in Texas – from seven to nine. In 2012, of the four new congressional seats awarded to Texas, two of the four new seats are majority-minority. The interim map also preserves the current effectiveness of all existing Latino-majority congressional districts, including congressional district 23 in West Texas, which was created as a Latino opportunity district following MALDEF’s U.S. Supreme Court victory in LULAC v. Perry in 2006.

Texas House Plan

The court-ordered interim plan increases by one the number of Texas State House districts in which Latinos have an opportunity to elect their preferred candidate. For the 2012 elections, of the 150 seats in the Texas House of Representatives, 34 are Latino opportunity districts, including a new Latino-majority district in Houston and a Latino-majority district in the Rio Grande Valley.

Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation for MALDEF and lead counsel for the Texas Latino Redistricting Taskforce noted that although significant gains were made to protect Latino voting rights, “The court’s interim House plan fails to create an additional Latino-majority house district in Nueces County. We expect to continue to advocate in court for the creation of a permanent plan that incorporates additional Latino electoral opportunity.”