Bush v. Vera (1996)

Bush v. Vera 517 US
952 (1996)


After the 1990 Census Texas received three
additional Congressional seats. As part of its reapportionment plan, the new redistricting
plan created three new majority-minority districts, two Hispanic and one
African American. The districts were undeniably gerrymandered for this purpose,
with little consideration for other factors, even compactness. Though cleared
by the DOJ and used for the 1992 elections, the plan was challenged and the
District Court held these three districts to be unconstitutional gerrymanders.
The case was appealed.


The Court first determined that voters in the
gerrymandered districts did have standing to sue. The Court then reaffirmed its
earlier holdings in Shaw and Miller that “Strict scrutiny applies where race was “the predominantfactor”
motivating the drawing of district lines, and traditional, race neutral districting principles were
subordinated to race.” The
districts were found to have substantially ignored compactness requirements in
order to create majority-minority districts, and that racial
gerrymandering was subject to strict scrutiny. The Court explored the
defendants’ claim that incumbent protection and politically motivated
gerrymandering were the primary considerations, which if true would not result
in strict scrutiny review. The Court determined, however, that racial
considerations were the primary motivation, and thus strict scrutiny
applied. Under strict scrutiny, defendants
failed to provide a compelling interest to justify drawing districts based
purely on race,. Race can be an important consideration, and majority-minority
districts can be
intentionally drawn, but only of the established requirements stemming from §2 of the VRA have been
demonstrated. Furthermore, a history of discrimination, as in Texas, is not
sufficient on its own to satisfy this requirement. Discrimination must be
“specific and identified” in the district, along with racially polarized
voting, to substantiate the defendants voter dilution claim.

on Redistricting

The case reaffirmed
Shaw’s finding that creating majority-minority districts cannot justify gerrymandering without demonstrating
that the specific district meets the criteria for vote dilution under §2 of the VRA. While some
heavily gerrymandered districts, such as District 38 in California, can be
created to protect minority voting strength, the fact that a majority-majority
district can be created does not necessarily require or permit such a district
to be drawn. This allows line drawers more freedom in creating districts in
areas with large minority populations, or seen another way, less freedom to
maximize majority-minority districts.