The Texas House voted late at night to approve new congressional boundaries. This would allow them more room after close calls in 2018 & 2020 and also give the GOP a new path along the border with Mexico.
In a preview of possible legal challenges, Democrats spent hours blasting maps as discriminatory and blind to the state’s growing Latino population. They made up over half of the almost 4 million new Texans in the last decade. Many people live in Houston and Dallas, where the GOP-engineered maps would not allow for any new districts to give Latinos a majority.
Republican state Rep. Todd Hunter has presided over the House's redrawn maps and defended them, saying they are in compliance with the law.
Before the maps are sent to the Republican Governor, they will need to be finalized in the coming days between Senate and House. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the maps.
Although the redrawn congressional districts will make it easier for incumbents to retain their seats, critics claim they also pose a threat to Black and Hispanic communities' influence on politics, even though those voters are driving Texas' growth. Two new districts were created by a once in a decade redistricting process. They also make some Republican legislators less competitive.
Texas was the only state that gained two congressional seats after the 2020 census. This showed that Texas had more residents of color than Texas's other 10 states.
Rafael Anchia, Democratic State Representative from California, stated that race was clearly a factor in how the maps were drawn. "Not partisanship but rather race."
One revision made by the Texas House during Saturday's debate would increase Hispanic voter registration in two districts. However, these changes still need to be approved in another round.
Republicans control almost all aspects of the mapmaking process, with both chambers controlled by Republicans. They work from maps that courts and experts have already declared gerrymandered in favor of them. The state has been required to defend its maps in court every redistricting since 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was in effect.
Legal challenges are facing new obstacles this round. This is the first time since the U.S. Supreme Court decided in 2013 that Texas and other states experiencing racial discrimination do not need to have maps scrutinized by the Justice Department before approval. Plaintiffs will now need to wait before filing claims. They must also prove that the maps were not intended to discriminate by race. It is legal to draw maps in order to gain political advantage.
Republican state senator Joan Huffman, who created the maps and heads the Senate Redistricting Committee has said that they were "drawn blindly to race". She claimed that her legal team made sure the proposal complied with the Voting Rights Act.
According to data from the Texas Legislative Council last year, the proposal would make 24 of 38 state congressional districts safe for Republicans. It also gives Democrats the chance to win at least one new Democratic stronghold along the Mexican border. Currently, 23 of 36 state seats are held by Republicans.
Rep. Van Taylor is one of the Republicans who has been given new advantages. His district in Dallas' exurbs was won by President Donald Trump by just a single percentage point last January. Trump would have won the district in double-digits under the new maps.
Rep. Michael McCaul was a target of Democrats in the past two cycles. He would now be a solidly pro Trump district, with lines that exclude Houston's suburbs, and liberal parts.
A long, vertically drawn area that stretches from San Antonio to the Rio Grande Valley, which President Joe Biden won by slightly over 2 percentage points, would now be slightly tilted in favor of Trump voters.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (a Democrat serving her 14th term) won a late-night victory for Democrats by drawing her home back into her Houston district. It was almost completely restored to its original shape. The same was true for the district of U.S. Rep. Al Green, which had been deprived of long-standing constituents from minority communities.
Texas legislators are also redecorating the maps of their districts. Republicans follow a similar plan to keep their party in control in the Senate and House. These proposals will also be sent to Abbott by next Wednesday.