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Congressional District Requirements

The number of seats in the U.S. House of Representatives apportioned to each state is determined after each decennial census by a mathematical formula set by federal law. Unless a state's constitution provides otherwise, each legislature has the authority to draw its state's congressional district boundaries. No Texas constitutional or statutory provisions address congressional redistricting. As a practical matter, the legislature must draw districts for the congressional seats apportioned to Texas before the candidates' filing period for the first general election following the decennial census. Unlike legislative redistricting, congressional redistricting does not come within the authority of the Legislative Redistricting Board if the legislature fails to enact a valid plan during the regular session that is meeting when the decennial census is published. The issue may be taken up in a subsequent special session of the legislature or, if the governor does not call a special session, the districts may be drawn by a state or federal court.

Federal law allows less population deviation for congressional districts than for legislative districts, requiring congressional districts to be as equal in population as practicable. In congressional districts, each deviation from the ideal district size must be justified on the basis of a rational state policy or be found to be unavoidable despite a good faith effort to draw districts with equal population. Karcher v. Daggett, 462 U.S. 725 (1983). As a result, congressional districts are usually drawn to be almost exactly the same in population.

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