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1980s Cycle

Texas Senate Redistricting

The 67th Legislature in regular session passed a senate redistricting plan, but the plan was vetoed by the governor. The Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB) convened on August 30, 1981, to consider senate redistricting and adopted a new senate plan on October 28. The plan was submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for preclearance.

In October, Upham v. White was filed in state district court maintaining that the LRB's senate plan should have been drawn on the basis of "qualified electors" as then required by the Texas Constitution and that population growth patterns should have been taken into consideration. The court rejected the arguments, upheld the senate plan, and did not rule specifically on the qualified electors provision of the constitution. No opinion was published.

A consolidation of suits against the LRB's senate and house plans, Terrazas v. Clements, was filed in federal court in late 1981. The suit claimed that the senate plan violated the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution by diluting the voting strength of blacks, Hispanics, and Republicans and by ignoring communities of interest throughout the state.

On January 25, 1982, the DOJ issued an objection to the LRB's senate redistricting plan. The federal court extended the candidate filing deadline for the 1982 primary, adopted the LRB's senate plan without change for use in the 1982 elections only, and directed the legislature to adopt permanent plans by September 1, 1983.

On May 16, 1983, the senate adopted a resolution petitioning the court to adopt a specified plan changing eight districts. The purpose of the proposal was to avoid a new senate reapportionment for the 1984 elections that would have terminated the staggered terms of the senators elected in 1982 and required the election of an entire senate in 1984. No objections were made to the plan by the DOJ or other groups. In December 1983, the federal district court in Terrazas ordered the proposed senate district plan into effect for the 1984 elections.

Texas House Redistricting

The regular session of the 67th Legislature passed a house redistricting plan, which was signed by the governor. On August 31, 1981, the Texas Supreme Court overturned the house redistricting plan because it split counties in violation of the Texas Constitution, and the LRB adopted a new house plan on October 28. The LRB house plan was submitted to the DOJ for preclearance.

The consolidated suits against the LRB's senate and house plans, Terrazas v. Clements, claimed that the house plan violated the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments, diluted the voting strength of racial minorities, interfered with the First Amendment rights of Texas Republicans to associate politically, impermissibly divided communities of interest, and overpopulated certain districts that were predicted to grow substantially, leading to underrepresentation of people in those areas.

On January 25, 1982, the DOJ issued an objection to the LRB's house redistricting plan. The federal court extended the candidate filing deadline for the 1982 primary, adopted the LRB's house plan, with changes in some Bexar and El Paso County districts, for use in the 1982 elections only, and directed the legislature to adopt a permanent house plan by September 1, 1983.

On May 10, 1983, the 68th Legislature in regular session enacted a bill adopting without change the federal court's house plan for the 1982 elections, and the court approved the plan on January 4, 1984.

Congressional Redistricting

The regular session of the 67th Legislature adjourned on June 1, 1981, without adopting a congressional plan. The legislature convened in special session and passed a congressional plan on August 10, which was submitted to the DOJ for preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The DOJ issued an objection to the plan.

The congressional plan was challenged in federal district court in Seamon v. Upham. The DOJ had objected to two South Texas districts in the legislature's plan; the court determined that these objections invalidated the entire plan. The federal district court redrew districts in South Texas and in and around Dallas County, where its decision to draw two districts in which blacks would have had substantial influence but not a voting majority was appealed. The U.S. Supreme Court found that the district court had erred and remanded the case to district court. Because the decision was issued in April and the primaries were to be held in May, the federal district court's congressional plan was allowed to stand for the 1982 elections.

The 68th Legislature left in place the federal court's congressional plan with the two black impact districts in Dallas County, but made changes to other districts in the Dallas area and in Bexar and Val Verde Counties.

State Board of Education Redistricting

In 1984, the 68th Legislature, 2nd Called Session, created a new 15-member board, serving staggered four-year terms, with one member elected from each 15 newly enacted districts. A transitional board was appointed by the governor to serve until 1989. In the 1988 General Election, all 15 members were elected.

The Texas Legislative Council, a nonpartisan legislative service agency, provides technical and legal support to the Texas legislature for redistricting.