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Election Litigation: District Lines
Unsuccessful Injunction Against State Court Proscription on Political Gerrymandering
League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania v. Pennsylvania (Michael M. Baylson, E.D. Pa. 2:17-cv-5137) and Corman v. Torres (Christopher C. Conner, Kent A. Jordan, and Jerome B. Simandle, M.D. Pa. 1:18-cv-443)
After a state supreme court redrew congressional district lines to remedy excessive partisan gerrymandering, opponents of the new lines sought a federal court injunction against the state court decision. A three-judge district court declined to enjoin the state court’s new lines. An earlier attempt to remove the litigation to federal court was unsuccessful because the removal was attempted without the consent of all defendants.
Topics: Matters for state courts; malapportionment; three-judge court; intervention; case assignment; removal; attorney fees.
Injunction Against a State Law Singling Out One Municipality for a Change in Local Control
City of Greensboro v. Guilford County Board of Elections (Catherine C. Eagles, M.D.N.C. 1:15-cv-559)
On July 2, 2015, a state legislature restructured a city council from five members representing districts and three members elected at large to eight members representing districts, and the legislature removed control over the structure of city government from this city alone. On July 13, two weeks before the beginning of a candidate filing period, a federal complaint challenged the act, and the district judge determined that the act probably violated equal protection by treating the city differently from all other cities in the state, so the election proceeded according to the moriginal council structure. Following a bench trial in 2017, the judge additionally determined that the new district lines unconstitutionally favored one political party.Because no party defended the constitutionality of the legislation, the judge declined the plaintiffs an award of attorney fees.
Topics: Equal protection; intervention; malapportionment; attorney fees.
Voting Rights Challenge to a School District Consolidation
North Forest Independent School District v. Texas Educational Agency (David Hittner, S.D. Tex. 4:13-cv-1786)
School district trustees filed a federal voting rights challenge to consolidation of the school district with a neighboring school district. On the day after the case was heard, the challenge pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act became moot because of the Supreme Court’s holding that the criteria for application of section 5 were unconstitutional. The district judge denied immediate relief on the section 2 claim, consolidation proceeded, and the parties stipulated to a nonsuit.
Topics: Section 2 discrimination; section 5 preclearance; laches.
Inadvertent Use of Wrong District Lines in a Primary Election
Harris County Department of Education v. Harris County (Lee H. Rosenthal, S.D. Tex. 4:12-cv-2190)
A county’s department of education filed a federal complaint after a primary election for its board of trustees was held using malapportioned district lines instead of interim lines imposed by a federal judge in another case while preclearance of new lines was pending. The district judge presiding over the new case found no constitutional violation because of a lack of intent, and she found that the equities weighed against the plaintiff because it was unlikely that the districting error had an effect on the election’s ultimate outcome.
Topics: Election errors; enjoining elections; malapportionment; intervention; 42 U.S.C. § 1983; primary election.
Redistricting the Bibb County School District
Miller v. Bibb County School District (Hugh Lawson, M.D. Ga. 5:12-cv-239)
A June 26, 2012, federal complaint alleged malapportionment for a county board of education. The district judge delayed the pending primary election until the day scheduled for a possible primary runoff to give the county enough time to adopt a precleared redistricting plan. By consent order, the judge awarded the plaintiffs attorney fees and costs.
Topics: Malapportionment; enjoining elections; section 5 preclearance; attorney fees.
Preclearance of Court-Ordered Redistricting in Alaska
Samuelsen v. Treadwell (Sharon L. Gleason, D. Alaska 3:12-cv-118)
Six days after the candidate filing deadline for Alaska’s legislature, four voters filed a federal complaint in the District of Alaska claiming that although Alaska’s initial 2011 redistricting had been precleared pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, modifications ordered by Alaska’s supreme court in May had not. On the day before a three-judge district court was to hear the case, the modifications were precleared.
Topics: Section 5 preclearance; three-judge court; recusal; case assignment; primary election.
Redistricting the Sumter County School Board
Bird v. Sumter County Board of Education (W. Louis Sands, M.D. Ga. 1:12-cv-76)
The district court enjoined July 31, 2012, primary elections for Sumter County, Georgia’s board of education, on a May 22 federal complaint. The relief was sought by both the voter plaintiff and the county defendants because of the state’s failure to seek timely preclearance for new district lines reflecting the 2010 census. The judge permitted an interest group to intervene for the purpose of proposing a new district plan, but the judge decided to draw his own plan with the assistance of the legislature’s reapportionment office.
Topics: Malapportionment; enjoining elections; intervention; section 5 preclearance.
Redistricting Clayton County’s Board of Education
Adamson v. Clayton County Elections and Registration Board (Charles A. Pannell, Jr., N.D. Ga. 1:12-cv-1665)
A May 11, 2012, federal complaint alleged malapportionment for a county board of education’s district lines, because the lines had not been redrawn after the 2010 census. On the day at the beginning of the qualifying period for the primary election, the district judge heard the case and enjoined election procedures until the district lines could be redrawn. With the assistance of the state’s reapportionment office, the judge adopted a new districting map in June. There was no primary election that year; all candidates ran in the general election. The court assessed half of the expert’s fees to each side.
Topics: Malapportionment; enjoining elections; case assignment.
Essex v. Kobach (Kathryn H. Vratil, D. Kan. 5:12-cv-4046)
Kansas was the last state to redraw district lines in light of the 2010 census, and a voter filed a federal action for court-drawn districts on May 3, 2012, a little over one month before candidate filing deadlines. After a day-and-a-half bench trial, a three-judge district court issued new district lines for congressional seats, the state legislature, and the state board of education on June 7. The court awarded the plaintiff and some intervenors $379,447.15 in attorney fees and expenses.
Topics: Malapportionment; three-judge court; intervention; attorney fees.
A Transitionally Unrepresented District Because of District Restructuring
NAACP—Greensboro Branch v. Guilford County Board of Elections (William L. Osteen, Jr., M.D.N.C. 1:12-cv-111)
The state’s restructuring of a county board of commissioners would result in a two-year transition period with one district unrepresented and another district with two representatives. The district judge declined to enjoin the beginning of the candidate filing period, but on further hearing provisionally enjoined the election. The court’s ultimate remedy was to swap the election schedule for two districts so that an election would be held for the district that would otherwise be unrepresented instead of another district, an election for which would be held two years later. The state resolved the issue of double representation by appointing one of the duplicate representatives to an at-large seat.
Topics: Equal protection; enjoining elections.
Using an Old Legislative Districting Plan
Smith v. Aichele (2:12-cv-488), Garcia v. 2011 Legislative Reapportionment Commission (2:12-cv-556), and Pileggi v. Aichele (2:12-cv-588) (R. Barclay Surrick, E.D. Pa.)
From January 30 through February 3, 2012, three federal complaints sought to block April 24 primary legislative elections because the district lines were based on the 2000 census. On February 8, the judge denied all requests to delay the primaries. On March 17, 2014, the court of appeals affirmed a judgment against voters because the voters did not reside in districts with legislative seats up for election in 2012.
Topics: Malapportionment; enjoining elections.
Imminent Elections for a Districting Plan Not Yet Precleared
Petteway v. Galveston (Kenneth M. Hoyt, Emilio M. Garza, and Melinda Harmon, S.D. Tex. 3:11-cv-511)
A federal complaint sought to enjoin the use of new county commission district lines until the new lines could be precleared pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The district judge assigned the case issued a temporary restraining order, but the other two judges of a three-judge district court empaneled to hear the section 5 claim determined that the injunction was unnecessary while preclearance procedures were pending. Preclearance required adjustments to the new districting plan, and the court ordered adjustments to the election calendar to accommodate the late-drawn district lines. The district judge assigned the case awarded attorney fees and costs to the plaintiffs, but the court of appeals determined that they were not prevailing parties in the litigation because the injunction did not have an impact on the preclearance process.
Topics: Section 5 preclearance; malapportionment; three-judge court; enjoining elections; attorney fees; intervention.
Court-Ordered County Precinct Lines While Preclearance Is Pending
Vasquez-Lopez v. Medina County (Orlando L. Garcia, W.D. Tex. 5:11-cv-945)
Eighteen days before the beginning of a ballot qualification period, a federal complaint challenged post-census county redistricting as not precleared pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Thirteen days later, the district judge approved a districting plan proposed by the parties, and later the judge awarded the plaintiffs $35,546.93 in attorney fees and costs.
Topics: Section 5 preclearance; malapportionment; attorney fees.
Texas Redistricting in 2011
Davis v. Perry (Orlando L. Garcia, W.D. Tex. 5:11-cv-788)
On September 22, 2011, six days after a three-judge redistricting bench trial on legislative and congressional districts in Texas, voters filed a federal complaint alleging dilution of minority voting strength in their districts. The court ordered the defendants to respond by October 3, and the case was consolidated with a collection of cases already underway. Seven years after the litigation began, the Supreme Court approved districting plans that reflected the political judgments of the state legislature as much as possible, modified by the district court only as necessary to cure legal defects.
Topics: Malapportionment; three-judge court; case assignment; section 2 discrimination; section 5 preclearance; intervention; attorney fees; removal; pro se party.
Malapportioned Districts in an Election Held Soon After the Release of New Census Data
Graves v. City of Montgomery (W. Keith Watkins, M.D. Ala. 2:11-cv-557)
Six weeks and one day before a planned August 23, 2011, election, a federal complaint alleged that the city council districts were malapportioned because they had not been redrawn to reflect the 2010 census. The district judge denied immediate relief and ultimately ruled that redistricting—which the evidence showed to be a work in progress—was not yet required.
Topics: Malapportionment; laches.
Hasty Redistricting of a County Legislature
Boone v. Nassau County Legislature (Joanna Seybert, E.D.N.Y. 2:11-cv-2712)
On the day before a period of collecting ballot petition signatures for a county legislature election, voters filed a federal complaint challenging new district lines. The district judge held preliminary injunction hearings during the following week, but the state high court’s nullification of the district lines mooted the federal case.
Topics: Malapportionment; matters for state courts; section 2 discrimination; case assignment; getting on the ballot; class action.
Mississippi County Board of Supervisors Malapportionment
Madison County Board of Supervisors v. Mississippi (William H. Barbour, Jr., and Louis Guirola, Jr., S.D. Miss. 3:11-cv-119), County Branches of the NAACP v. County Boards of Supervisors (Sharion Aycock, N.D. Miss. 1:11-cv-59 and 2:11-cv-40; Michael P. Mills, N.D. Miss. 1:11-cv-60, 2:11-cv-43, 3:11-cv-27, and 3:11-cv-28; W. Allen Pepper, Jr., N.D. Miss. 2:11-cv-41 and 2:11-cv-42; and Louis Guirola, Jr., S.D. Miss. 3:11-cv-121, 3:11-cv-122, 3:11-cv-123, 3:11-cv-124, 4:11-cv-33, 5:11-cv-28, 5:11-cv-29, and 5:11-cv-30), and Redd v. Westbrook (Louis Guirola, Jr., S.D. Miss. 3:11-cv-321)
Every 20 years, the interval of time between the decennial census and elections to county boards of supervisors in Mississippi is so short that it is difficult to redistrict the county boards in time for the elections. Among the federal lawsuits filed in 2011 because of this in Mississippi’s two districts, 17 sought court intervention to enable redistricting before the election and one sought court intervention to prevent redistricting before the election. Five district judges denied immediate judicial relief. The court of appeals determined that the 2011 elections mooted the cases.
Topics: Malapportionment; intervention; case assignment.
Constitutionality of a Dual-Majority Requirement
Tigrett v. Cooper (S. Thomas Anderson, W.D. Tenn. 2:10-cv-2724)
A federal complaint alleged vote dilution in a dual-majority requirement for a 2010 referendum on the consolidation of city and county governments. An agreed preliminary injunction enjoined certification of the forthcoming referendum results and required referendum votes in the county to be counted separately for voters within and outside the city. Although the referendum failed, the district judge determined that the case was not moot. In 2014, the judge granted summary judgment against the plaintiffs. Disagreeing on the mootness question, the court of appeals dismissed the appeal.
Topics: Ballot measure; equal protection; section 2 discrimination; enjoining certification; ballot segregation; intervention.
Section 5 Preclearance for Acquisition of Property
City of College Park v. City of Atlanta (Julie E. Carnes, N.D. Ga. 1:08-cv-1464)
The City of College Park and one of its residents filed a federal complaint against the City of Atlanta in the Northern District of Atlanta on April 18, 2008, claiming that Atlanta was violating section 5 of the Voting Rights Act by acquiring an apartment building in College Park to clear the land of structures and people for benefit of the airport without first obtaining preclearance for the change in College Park’s electorate. On the day that the complaint was filed, the district judge issued a temporary restraining order enjoining the property acquisition, but the property had already been acquired earlier in the day that the judge vacated the order. The parties agreed to a settlement.
Topics: Section 5 preclearance; three-judge court.
At-Large Election to Districts in Memphis
Operation Rainbow-Push, Inc. v. Shelby County Election Commission (Jon P. McCalla, W.D. Tenn. 2:06-cv-2451)
A municipality removed a state-court action challenging an election to a commission because the members were to be selected from districts but elected at large. Observing the potential impact on candidates for other offices in the election, the district judge denied the plaintiffs immediate relief.
Topics: Enjoining elections; section 2 discrimination; equal protection; intervention; removal.
Emergency Evaluation of Gerrymandering
Kidd v. Cox (Beverly B. Martin, N.D. Ga. 1:06-cv-997)
As the qualifying period for filing candidacy papers closed, a possible candidate filed a constitutional challenge to legislative district lines. The plaintiffs sought an emergency hearing by a three-judge district court. The three-judge court extended the deadline and heard the case. The court ruled against the plaintiffs, finding the population deviations to be within constitutional limits, and issued a 46-page opinion on the matter two weeks later.
Topics: Malapportionment; section 5 preclearance; three-judge court.
Redistricting an Incumbent Out of His District
Jenkins v. Ray (Clay D. Land, M.D. Ga. 4:06-cv-43)
After school board redistricting had received preclearance pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, it was discovered that the district line ran through the school board chair’s property and his dwelling was no longer in the district he represented. Three months before a school board election, six voters filed a federal complaint challenging the preclearance. The assigned judge issued a temporary restraining order suspending the ballot qualification deadline, and a three-judge district court held an evidentiary hearing at the end of the next month. The three-judge court determined that redistricting the incumbent out of his district required preclearance, so election officials allowed him to continue to represent and vote in his original district.
Topics: Section 5 preclearance; three-judge court; getting on the ballot; enforcing orders; provisional ballots.
Enjoining an Election for New District Lines
Morman v. City of Baconton (W. Louis Sands, M.D. Ga. 1:03-cv-161)
The federal district court enjoined an election for city council because the district lines had recently received preclearance pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act and a state judge had refused to allow a delay to await preclearance of the new lines. The matter was heard on the afternoon before the scheduled November election. The election was held instead at the time of the presidential primary elections the following March. The matter of attorney fees was settled out of court.
Topics: Malapportionment; enjoining elections; section 5 preclearance; three-judge court; attorney fees.
Malapportioned City Commission Districts
Wright v. City of Albany (W. Louis Sands, M.D. Ga. 1:03-cv-148)
The district court enjoined the November 2003 election for Albany, Georgia’s board of commissioners on a September 24 federal complaint that the commission districts were malapportioned. District lines reflecting the 2000 census had not yet received preclearance pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. The judge permitted a mayoral candidate, elected at large, to intervene in an unsuccessful attempt to protect the mayoral election’s going forward as planned. With the assistance of the state legislature’s Reapportionment Services Office, the judge drew district lines and set an election for February 10, 2004. On the day of the election, the judge kept the polls open until 9:00 p.m. because of problems at some polls. The plaintiffs recovered $35,647.75 in attorney fees and expenses.
Topics: Malapportionment; enjoining elections; section 5 preclearance; intervention; polling hours; attorney fees.
New School Board Elections to Accommodate the Decennial Census
Cox v. Donaldson (George Howard, Jr., E.D. Ark. 5:02-cv-319)
Three school board members filed a federal complaint on September 3, 2002, to enjoin a September 17 school board election. Five school board directors served staggered five-year terms, and the opening of all seats to new elections was intended to accommodate the 2000 census data. On the day after the election, the district judge issued an agreed order temporarily enjoining certification of the election. The following May, the parties agreed that the election would be certified only for the position with the expired term.
Topics: Enjoining elections; enjoining certification.
Communities of Interest in Congressional Districts
Kansas v. Thornburgh (Julie A. Robinson, Deanell Reece Tacha, and J. Thomas Marten, D. Kan. 5:02-cv-4087)
Two months in advance of primary elections, a state’s attorney general filed a federal complaint challenging congressional district lines. Approximately one month later, a three-judge district court ruled that intervening plaintiffs had not shown an unconstitutional splitting of communities of interest. The attorney general was dismissed for lack of standing.
Topics: Malapportionment; intervention; three-judge court.
Redistricting Elbert County
Brown v. Elbert County (Hugh Lawson, M.D. Ga. 3:02-cv-45)
In May 2002, voters filed an action in federal court to have the district lines for two county boards redrawn to reflect the 2000 census. The district judge appointed the state reapportionment office to assist him in ordering new district lines and awarded the plaintiffs attorney fees.
Topics: Malapportionment; attorney fees.
Postponement of a City Council Election for Preclearance of New Districts
LULAC Council #682 v. City of Seguin (Orlando L. Garcia, W.D. Tex. 5:02-cv-369)
A federal judge enjoined a May 4 city council election, because a previous districting plan had become malapportioned and a new plan had not yet received preclearance. The election was held on September 14.
Topics: Enjoining elections; section 5 preclearance; malapportionment; three-judge court; attorney fees; early voting.
School District Election Enjoined for Lack of Preclearance
Reyna v. East Central ISD (Orlando L. Garcia, W.D. Tex. 5:02-cv-257)
Six days before a candidate filing deadline for school district trustees, a federal complaint sought an injunction of the election because newly drawn district lines had been denied preclearance by the Justice Department. The district judge issued a temporary restraining order against the election, and then a three-judge district court issued a stipulated preliminary injunction. An election was held several months later with precleared district lines. The court awarded the plaintiffs $30,862.50 in attorney fees.
Topics: Enjoining elections; section 5 preclearance; three-judge court; attorney fees.
Remedying Malapportionment in Place for Decades
Diamond v. Town of Manalapan (Patricia A. Seitz, S.D. Fla. 9:02-cv-80065)
A few weeks before a town commission election, four voters filed a federal complaint alleging malapportionment of commission districts because four commissioners represented 89 residents on one side of town and two commissioners represented 232 residents on the other side of town. The district judge denied the plaintiffs a preliminary injunction, which would disrupt a scheme that had been in place for decades, but ordered a constitutionally valid plan be in place within approximately six months. Following conversion of the commission to at-large elections with at least two commissioners from each side of town, the judge granted a voluntary dismissal of the suit.
Topics: Malapportionment; intervention; attorney fees.
Elimination of a Constable Precinct
Rodriguez v. Bexar County (H.F. Garcia and William Wayne Justice, W.D. Tex. 5:01-cv-1049)
A district judge issued a temporary injunction against the redistricting of justice of the peace and constable precincts, eliminating one of the five precincts, without preclearance pursuant to section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. After the county obtained preclearance, the judge found Hispanic vote dilution in violation of section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, but the court of appeals reversed the nullification of an election to the new precincts.
Topics: Section 5 preclearance; section 2 discrimination; enjoining elections; three-judge court; case assignment.
Redistricting New Jersey in 2001
Page v. Bartels (Dickinson R. Debevoise, D.N.J. 2:01-cv-1733)
In an election year for New Jersey, a federal complaint challenged district lines for the state legislature that were adopted on the previous day. On the day that the complaint was filed, the judge signed a proposed order to show cause why the new districts should not be enjoined. At a hearing four days later, the judge determined that there was no likelihood that the plaintiffs would prevail on the merits. The court of appeals ruled one week later that the district court should have empaneled a three-judge district court to hear the case. The three-judge court granted summary judgment to the defendants.
Topics: Malapportionment; three-judge court.
Voting Rights for Annexed Territory
Marascalco v. Grenada (Rhesa Barksdale, Neal B. Biggers, Jr., and Glen Davidson, N.D. Miss. 3:00-cv-61)
Ten days before a municipal election, residents of recently annexed territory filed a federal complaint seeking to halt the election in which they would not be able to vote because the Justice Department denied preclearance to the annexation. A three-judge district court heard the case six days later and denied immediate relief. The court doubted its jurisdiction over the matter and expressed concern about the filing of the complaint nearly two months after the denial of preclearance.
Topics: Enjoining elections; equal protection; three-judge court; section 5 preclearance; laches.