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In a state where more than 60% of the population is people of color, the Texas legislature offers cards where whites have the majority of votes in 50% of congressional districts.
It is not representative.
Texas has grown 15.9% over the past decade, according to the 2020 census. There are about 4 million more people in the state today than 10 years ago, and 95% of this growth is attributable to people of color.
Whites now make up 39.8% of the state’s population. Hispanics are about as numerous – 39.3% – and demographers expect that portion of the population to be largest within a year or two. Black Texans, Asian Texans and others make up the remaining fifth of the population.
There is no majority, in other words, and the plurality is about to shift to Hispanics.
You wouldn’t be able to prove all of this by looking at the political maps the Texas legislature is drawing right now.
A Senate committee has already approved (in a straight-line vote) a new map that has 12 majority white districts and four more where the majority of the voting age population – adults – are white. The Hispanic population is roughly the same size in the state, but not in Texas Senate plans; the card has seven seats where Hispanic residents constitute the majority.
Four other districts in this new Senate map have a majority of people of color if you add their black residents and their Hispanic residents together.
The remaining four districts do not have white, Hispanic, or blacker Hispanic majorities. They don’t look exactly like the state of Texas, but they look more like the rest of the state than the 27 other districts.
The Senate card is just one example; all of the new maps revealed so far have been designed with similar disparities between the composition of the population and the cartographic and political machinations of state officials.
It’s not just demographics. The Texas Legislative Council – a state agency that draws maps, drafts bills and does other legal work for the legislature, generates reports on how each district would have voted in the 2020 election.
It doesn’t look like Texas either.
Overall, Republican Donald Trump has beaten Democrat Joe Biden by 52% to 45.5%. Trump would have won in 19 of the proposed senatorial districts, or 61.3%. Biden would have won in 12, or 38.7%.
It is not representative.
During the current Special Session of the Legislative Assembly on Redistribution, someone will compare the proposed maps to the current maps – either in a way that makes the new maps fairer or in a way that makes them look like one step back. Remember, however, that the current cards have been challenged for many of the same reasons.
This time around 95% of the state’s growth has been attributed to people of color. Ten years ago, the U.S. census attributed 89% of the state’s growth to people of color. Both times, the increase in the Hispanic population in Texas was the primary driver. Texas has experienced rapid growth for a long time; the 2010 census revealed that the population had increased by 20.6%; the 2020 census found 15.9%.
The legislature that met in 2011 had more or less the same goals as this year’s legislature: to draw new political constituencies that reflect the state’s overall growth and geographic changes in population. But they also had the same prejudices. The Republican majorities wanted to retain their grip on state government, which is, after all, what political majorities do. And they were more interested in Republican communities and neighborhoods than communities of color.
They were focused, then like today, on victory, not that other word – the one that indicates that every Texan is fairly considered and has equal political power.