- Court: United States Supreme Court
- Area(s) of Law: Election Law
- Date Filed: January 9, 2012
- Case #: 11-713, 11-714, 11-715
- Judge(s)/Court Below: No lower court opinion
- Full Text Opinion
In 2011, the Texas legislature created a new electoral map for the Texas House, Texas Senate, and U.S. House of Representatives in light of recent population changes in the state. Because Texas has a prior history of discrimination in voting based on race, it is a “covered jurisdiction” under section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, 42 USC § 1972 et seq. As such, before any changes in state election procedure may go into effect, Texas must first receive preclearance. Texas pursued one of the methods for receiving preclearance under the Act by filing a declaratory judgment action in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. At the same time, the new electoral maps were challenged in a federal district court in Texas by certain individuals alleging that the maps violated the Equal Protection Clause and Section 2 of the VRA, which forbids the use of voting methods that discriminate on the basis of race or membership in a particular language group.
The Texas federal court refrained from awarding relief while the preclearance litigation was pending. It did announce, however, that it would draw interim maps to govern the 2012 election cycle while the preclearance of the legislature’s maps was pending. The Texas court explained that it would not use the new electoral maps under preclearance review during the interim period because that would have the effect of allowing the voting changes to take effect without preclearance in violation of the VRA. Subsequently, the D.C. District Court ordered Texas to implement the court’s interim redistricting maps for the 2012 elections.
Texas appealed to the Supreme Court requesting an emergency stay from the implementation of the interim maps. Texas argues that although the VRA is silent on this issue, it was Congress’s intent that preclearance is pending, the old election laws govern. Thus, there is no need for judicially created interim laws. Further, Texas argues that imposing the interim maps violates principles of federalism and improperly punishes Texas for delays in the preclearance process.