Texas Republicans are about to enact new voting maps that would entrench the state’s Republican and white majority, even as its non-white population is growing rapidly.
Texas Republicans approved the congressional plan Monday night and sent it to Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, who is expected to sign the measure.
Texas maps offer perhaps the most blatant effort in the United States so far this year to draw new district lines for the benefit of a political party, a practice called gerrymandering. The proposed congressional map would mitigate the growing Democratic force in the Texas suburbs. Texas Republicans already have a 23-13 seat advantage in the state’s Congressional delegation and the new maps would double the number of safe Republican Congressional seats in the state from 11 to 22. according to the Washington Post.
Democrats would have 12 safe seats, up from eight. There would be only one competitive congressional district in the state, compared to 12.
The map also clearly blunts the growing political strength of minorities in Texas. Over the past decade, the Hispanic population has grown by nearly 2 million people in the state, while the white population increased by approximately 187,000 people. Ninety-five percent of the state’s population growth Over the past decade it has come from minorities, but the proposed Congressional map actually reduces the number of districts in the state where non-white people comprise a majority. There would be an additional district where whites make up the majority of voters.
“You have to work really hard to draw districts that don’t see 95% growth in communities of color. I mean you have to be really intentional, ”said Rafael Anchia, a Democrat in the Texas House who chairs the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus. “In district after district, the voting power of minority populations was diluted over and over again.”
Republicans have rushed their map proposals through the state legislature, giving the public little opportunity to comment. Hearings were sometimes announced just 24 hours in advance, and multiple votes to advance plans took place late at night. “The legislature just got over this,” Anchia said.
“It’s pretty demoralizing, to be honest with you.” “There is a manipulation of the rules of the game of the last decade, which allows the majority to manipulate the rules of the redistricting process and then continue to hold on to power and deny people the results of policies that will materially affect their lives.” .
Civil rights groups have already filed a federal lawsuit that seeks to prevent the state from using the maps in the future. The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in San Antonio, argues that the maps violate both the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the 14th amendment, which guarantees the same protection under the law. The maps “illegally dilute the voting power of Latinos,” wrote the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, and “intentionally discriminate against them on the basis of race and national origin.”
Republicans have full control of state government in Texas, which also means they have full control over the redistricting process. The new maps offer a clear example of how legislators can stop political change and virtually guarantee their re-election for the decade in which the maps are used.
The Republican effort to secure power is clearest in the suburbs, which are the fastest growing and some of the most diverse in the state. In several places, Republicans annexed areas with rapidly growing minority populations to rural areas that are more likely to vote for Republican candidates. The tactics ensure that districts remain red reliably.
“What this map tells me is [Republicans] they’re not sure they’re getting white suburban voters back, so they’ve decided we’ll only use rural voters to neutralize the suburbs, ”said Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice .
It’s a strategy on full display in places like suburban Dallas, which includes the 33rd congressional district.
Hispanic voters make up almost the majority of the district, according to the Texas Tribune. But on their new map, Republicans carved out a predominantly Hispanic portion of 33 and attached it to the neighboring sixth congressional district, which stretches more than 6,000 square miles into rural eastern Texas. Hispanic voters will be moved from a Democratic district in which they had significant political weight to one in which whites almost constitute a majority.
A similar strategy is on display in Fort Bend County, which includes the southwestern suburbs of Houston. It is one of the most diverse and fastest growing in the entire country, divided almost evenly between Whites, African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans. Democrats have made clear progress there; Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden led the district in 2016 and 2020.
Under the new Republican map, some of the most Democratic-leaning areas in the county would be clustered with districts that are already heavily Democratic in Houston. The remaining part of the county will be attached to rural areas that are solidly Republican. It’s a setup that will ensure that a Republican candidate can stay in the Congressional district.
Due to the 2013 supreme court decision voiding the Voting Rights Act, this will be the first time since 1965 that Texas does not have to submit its maps to the federal government for approval before they go into effect. It will be a boon for Texas, where the courts have repeatedly struck down districts as violations of the Voting Rights Act in every decade since the law took effect.
In 2011, when Texas had yet to submit its maps for prior authorization, federal courts blocked the maps from taking effect. Later, a federal court determined that the 2011 maps were approved with the intent to discriminate against minority voters.
A federal bill on the right to vote, the Law For the People, which is pending in the Senate, most likely block the Texas congressional plan, Li said. The bill would allow a court to block the use of a plan if computer simulations showed that the plan would result in a level of bias beyond a certain threshold in two of the four most recent U.S. Senate and presidential elections. . The Texas plan would fail in all four elections, Li said.
Democrats are scheduled to hold a vote on the legislation on Wednesday, but Republicans are likely to block it using filibuster, a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to advance the legislation. There are calls for Democrats to get rid of the rule to pass laws on the right to vote.
Earlier this year, Anchia and his fellow Democrats left Texas for several weeks, denying lawmakers a quorum as they sought to advance comprehensive voting rights legislation. They spent that time in Washington lobbying senators to pass federal voting rights legislation.
“The Senate has to act. They have to act because democracy requires it, ”Anchia said.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism