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Overview: Congressional Districts 1846–1982

Summary

In 1846, the first act of the 1st Legislature of the State of Texas was the adoption of a congressional plan consisting of two districts.

Following secession in March of 1861 until 1870 the U.S. Congress did not seat Texas congressional representatives.

The legislature regularly redistricted the state's allotted congressional districts following the decennial reapportionment or the adoption of a new Texas constitution throughout the 19th century.

The first half of the 20th century was marked by long periods in which new congressional districts were not enacted by legislatures. The congressional districts enacted in 1933 by the Texas Legislature remained relatively unchanged, with the exception of the addition of at-large representatives and a new district in Harris County, until 1965.

Both the legislature and the federal courts revisited congressional redistricting multiple times within each decade for the remainder of the 20th century and into the first decade of the 21st century.

Detail

In 1846, the first act of the 1st Legislature of the State of Texas was the adoption of a two-district congressional plan. Small changes by the legislature were made to the districts because of the creation of new counties in 1850.

Following secession from the Union in 1861, the 8th Legislature, 1st Called Session, enacted a six-district plan that sent representation to the Congress of the Confederate States of America.

The U.S. Congress did not seat congressional representatives from Texas from 1861 until 1870. However, the legislature enacted a four-district congressional plan in 1866 that included the two new representatives gained from the 1860 reapportionment.

The Texas Constitution of 1869 included a new four-district congressional plan. Two additional representatives, gained by the 1870 reapportionment, were elected at large in the 1872 election.

In 1874, the legislature enacted a six-district plan. The plan was reenacted in 1879 with clarifying language.

Texas gained five additional representatives under the 1880 reapportionment. The legislature enacted an 11-district plan in 1882.

The 1890 reapportionment added two additional representatives. A 13-district plan was enacted by the legislature in 1892.

Texas gained three representatives under the 1900 reapportionment. The legislature enacted a 16-district plan in 1901. The legislature enacted a new 16-district plan in 1909.

Two representatives were added as a result of the 1912 reapportionment. These new representatives were elected at large until an 18-district plan was enacted by the legislature in 1917. Since the U.S. Congress could not agree on an apportionment method after the 1920 census, this plan remained in effect through the 1932 elections.

Three representatives were added by the 1930 reapportionment. These new representatives were elected at large until the legislature in 1933 enacted a 21-district plan, which remained in effect through the 1956 elections. One at-large representative was added by the 1950 reapportionment. A 22-district plan was enacted in 1957.

One at-large representative was added by the 1960 reapportionment. In 1963, in Bush v. Martin, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas held that the Texas congressional districts were unconstitutional in violation of the one-person, one-vote principle. The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the decision in Martin v. Bush. The federal district court allowed the legislature to redraw the districts in the 1965 regular session.

The legislature enacted a 23-district plan in 1965. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas declared the plan constitutional, but retained jurisdiction in the case for the subsequent legislature to make changes that would increase the plan's "fundamental equity and fairness." In 1967, the legislature enacted a revised version of the 1965 plan.

Texas gained only one representative in the 1970 reapportionment; a 24-district plan was enacted by the legislature in 1971.

A new 24-district plan (PLAN B) was ordered for the 1974 elections by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (White v. Weiser) to address certain minority voting rights issues. The plan was enacted by the legislature in 1975, with minor revisions.

See also: Legislative Reference Library chart listing Texas legislative and congressional redistricting bills: 1880–present.

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