Lines in the Sand: Congressional Redistricting in Texas and the Downfall of Tom Delay

By Steve Bickerstaff | Go to book overview

chapter 16
The Legal Implications of the 2003 Redistricting

The redrawing of congressional district lines in Texas raised numerous legal issues; it is not the purpose of this book to examine them. However, there are several constitutional implications that deserve brief discussion. These are (1) whether the redistricting was a partisan gerrymander in violation of the Constitution; (2) whether it violated the constitutional mandate for districts of equal population, since it was an unnecessary mid-decade redistricting based on inaccurate population data; and (3) whether the experience in Texas demonstrates that the Voting Rights Act is no longer an effective means of protecting minority voting rights.


Partisan Gerrymandering

Partisanship and lawmaker self-interest are inevitably part of the redrawing of any congressional, state legislative, or local-government election boundaries. The placement of each boundary line can affect the electability of certain candidates and the representation of partisan or other interests: it can affect who will run for an office, who is likely to win, or what group of like-minded voters has the best opportunity to elect a person of their choice. Therefore, lawmakers, political parties, and interest groups historically have tried to manage the outcome of elections through the drawing of district boundaries.

The courts have consistently recognized that the presence of such partisanship or lawmaker self-interest does not invalidate a redistricting plan so long as the plan meets other applicable legal requirements (e.g., adheres to one person, one vote; does not violate the Voting Rights Act). The U.S. Supreme Court has several times considered whether excessive partisanship can itself invalidate a redistricting plan. The question has been a difficult one for the Court

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