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Senate Interim Committee on Legislative and Congressional Redistricting
Charge

Monitor the developments in three legal actions: Bush v. Vera, challenging Texas' congressional districts; Thomas v. Bush, challenging Texas' Senate and House districts; and census adjustment lawsuit on appeal to U.S. Supreme Court (Wisconsin v. City of New York).
Background

The committee did not issue an interim report. The following chronology of events in these three cases was derived from memos issued by the committee to its members.

BUSH V. VERA

  • 1/26/94-Suit (originally entitled Vera v. Richards) is filed challenging constitutionality of the state's current congressional districts, alleging that the legislature had attempted to segregate voters by race, creating minority districts. Such racial gerrymandering, the suit contended, violated the equal protections provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. A panel of three federal judges is later appointed to hear the case.

  • 8/17/94-The three-judge panel finds that three of the congressional districts, Districts 18, 29, and 30, were unconstitutional.

  • 9/2/94-Judges allow the November 1994, congressional elections to be held using the current districts. The state legislature is given until March 15, 1995, to create new districts conforming to the court's ruling (a stay of this date was later granted).

  • 9/22/94-State files notice of appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • 6/13/96-U.S. Supreme Court affirms the lower court's decision. Subsequently, the lower court holds a hearing concerning development of remedial districting plan.

  • 8/6/96-After the parties to the suit fail to agree on a plan, the lower court issues a temporary plan that redraws 13 districts and orders congressional elections for November 5, 1996, with runoffs on December 10, 1996. These elections are open to multiple candidates, regardless of party. The state is ordered to have a redistricting plan in place by June 30, 1997, for the 1998 elections.

  • 9/4/96-U.S. Supreme Court declines to stay the lower court's plan.

    THOMAS V. BUSH

  • 1/25/95-Suit is filed challenging the constitutionality of certain state Senate and House districts, making many of the same allegations of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering as put forward in Bush.

  • 3/29/95-Court grants change of venue to Austin.

  • 4/11/95-Panel of three federal judges are appointed to hear case.

  • 7/7/95-Status conference held concerning proposed settlement.

  • 7/25/95-Texas Attorney General's Office issues a letter opinion that a court-ordered plan would not require senators to redraw for terms, but a legislatively-enacted settlement of the suit would require all senators to run for election.

  • 7/26/95-Proposed settlement is submitted to the federal Department of Justice for approval.

  • 7/27/95-Parties file the proposed settlement plan with court.

  • 8/25/95-Department of Justice preclears settlement.

  • 9/6/95-Amended settlement plan is filed, to be effective for the 1996 election.

  • 9/15/95-Court adopts settlement plan, effective for the 1996 election.

  • 9/19/95-Court grants motion of a third-year law student, Brian Walters, to intervene. Walters asserts that if a court-ordered settlement changes Senate district boundaries, the entire Senate must run for reelection in 1996. As a party, Walters asserts he will be able to appeal the court's decision.

    WISCONSIN V. CITY OF NEW YORK

  • 3/20/96-The U.S. Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, held that the 1990 census would not have to be statistically readjusted to account for the estimated undercounting of minorities. If the court had required the census to be adjusted, Texas could have had to redraw congressional, legislative, and other electoral districts.