The Significance of the 2003 Congressional
Redistricting in Texas
Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct
of public affairs for private advantage.
—THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY, ambrose bierce
The redrawing of congressional district lines in Texas in 2003 was one of the most extraordinary political events of the past fifty years, the culmination of a three-year effort to increase the Republican majority in the United States House of Representatives. The significance of the outcome lay not only in its effect on the relative strength of political parties in Texas or the U.S. Congress, but also in the precedent it set for political and redistricting trends nationwide.
The story of redistricting in Texas in 2003 presented some of the most engaging personal tales and most interesting moments in recent Texas and national political history.
To prevent enactment of a Republican plan for partisan redistricting, most of the Democratic lawmakers left Texas to break quorum (the minimum number of legislators needed to consider legislation). Fifty-one Democratic state representatives departed in secret (most by bus) on a night in May 2003 and showed up together in Oklahoma. They remained gone until it became impossible for Republicans to pass a redistricting bill in the regular session of the 2003 Texas legislature. During a special legislative session on redistricting called by Texas governor Rick Perry, a Republican, at the end of July, eleven Democratic senators rushed from the state Capitol out of concern that they were about to be locked in the Senate chamber by Republicans intent on maintaining a quo-