LULAC, NAACP and the Rodriguez Plaintiffs To Stand before the U.S. Supreme Court
Washington, D.C. - Allison Riggs, Senior Voting Rights Attorney for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, will be arguing the case on behalf of the Texas State Conference of NAACP Branches and LULAC together with all other plaintiffs in the Texas state house of Representative case.
Renea Hicks, former solicitor general of Texas, will be arguing on behalf of the Rodriguez and LULAC plaintiffs, and all other plaintiffs in the Texas Congressional house case.
Luis Roberto Vera, Jr., National General Counsel of LULAC, will assist both in the State House and Congressional cases sitting at counsel table with Allison Riggs and Renea Hicks during oral argument.
Background on Abbott v. Perez:
Nearly 90% of Texas’ population growth from 2000-2010 was amongst people of color, and yet they lost representation in the redistricting plans that followed the 2010 Census.
Shortly after Texas adopted its 2011 redistricting plans for Congress and the state house, plaintiffs filed suit in federal court on the grounds that the maps discriminated against minority voters. Specifically, they alleged that certain districts intentionally diluted the voting rights of Latino voters, thus violating the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. They also alleged that Texas had made several districts predominantly based upon race, creating unconstitutional racial gerrymanders.
While the original case was moving forward, a district court approved temporary district maps for the state to use in the 2012 elections, which corrected only the most glaring constitutional flaws. In creating those interim maps, the district court was instructed to be highly deferential to the original lines drawn by Texas. In the temporary plan, therefore, much of the 2011 maps was left unchanged (including some of the challenged districts at issue in Tuesday’s argument).
Before any further proceedings, the Texas Legislature adopted the temporary plan in 2013 (with some small changes in the state house map) as a new official district maps in place of the 2011 plans.
When the district court finally addressed the legal validity of the 2013 maps, it found several of the unchanged districts were unconstitutional. Plaintiffs successfully argued that the legislature intended to maintain the discriminatory effects of these unchanged, original 2011 districts.
Before the district court could fashion a remedy, the defendants sought appellate review.
The State of Texas is now arguing that their most recently crafted plan must be upheld as constitutional insofar as they are similar to the interim maps ordered into effect by the district court in 2012.
LULAC, the Texas NAACP and other Plaintiffs are seeking relief from the U.S. Supreme Court to declare once and for all that racially discriminatory districts are unconstitutional.
More detailed history of the case:
After the 2010 census Texas gained four new Congressional seats, almost entirely due to the growth of its non-white population. In 2011 the state legislature redrew its congressional and state legislative districts map to reflect the population increase. However, due to its history of discriminatory voting practices, the state was subject to preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). In compliance with VRA, the state sought preclearance of its plans in the District Court for the District of Columbia.
At the same time, various groups of plaintiffs challenged Texas’s 2011 proposed redistricting for the Texas House and for Congress. The plaintiffs alleged the Texas House and Congressional maps were intentionally racially discriminatory in violation of the Constitution and the VRA, were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, and yielded discriminatory results in violation of the VRA.
With the 2012 elections rapidly approaching, and no preclearance from the D.C. Court on the 2011 plan, the Texas district court was required to draw interim map plans to be used for the 2012 elections.
Following the rejection of the first interim plan and a 2012 appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, the district court was required to be highly deferential to the lines drawn by the legislature in 2011 until a final decision about the constitutionality of the districts was determined. The district court made clear that the interim plan contained several districts that were an exact match to the 2011 plan and could very well still be determined to be discriminatory upon a full review of the evidence at trial.
In June 2013, shortly before the Supreme Court invalidated the coverage formula for Section 5 with its decision in Shelby County v. Holder, the legislature passed bills repealing the 2011 plans, and enacting in their place the interim plans used for the 2012 elections, with minor changes to the state house plan. The day after the Shelby County decision was announced, the Governor signed the legislation.
Plaintiffs amended their complaints to raise claims against the 2013 plans, and to assert a claim for relief under Section 3(c) of the VRA, to require Texas to be “bailed in” to the preclearance regime as a consequence of its intentionally discriminatory redistricting plans.
The district court held trials on the 2011 and 2013 plans.
The court concluded that the 2011 plans:
- were intentionally discriminatory with respect to a number of districts because they purposely cracked and packed minority voters to dilute their voting strength,
- were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders with respect to several districts, and
- contained violations of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, both in intent and effects, with respect to several districts.
Following a trial on the 2013 plan, the district court concluded that the state continued to act with discriminatory intent, and that the districts that were unlawful in the 2011 plan that were retained in the 2013 plan remained unlawful.
Ultimately, it’s those districts are at the crux of the matter before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The State of Texas now contends that because the district court did not alter those voting districts when it allowed the interim plans to be used in 2012, the district court was wrong to conclude the districts were unlawful.
The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with over 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit www.LULAC.org