Lawmakers send Gov. Greg Abbott new political maps that would further strengthen GOP’s grip on the Texas Legislature
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The Texas Legislature is nearing the end of its work to incorporate a decade of population growth into new political maps – continuing efforts to consolidate GOP dominance over State House and deny voters of color greater vote in who is elected.
In the home stretch of a 30-day special legislative session, Republican majorities in the House and Senate on Friday almost simultaneously signed new political cards for the house opposite, sending them to Governor Greg Abbott, also a Republican. , for his Signature. The votes were largely procedural as neither chamber made any changes. It is customary for each chamber to defer to the other in crafting maps for its own members, but both must give them a vote.
By a vote of 81-60, the House approved a Senate map that would draw secure seats for Republican incumbents who faced competitive races as their districts diversified over the past 10 years.
The Senate gave an 18-13 vote on a House card that would fortify the Republican majority of the 150 districts, strengthening those that had become competitive in the past decade and designing new battleground districts.
The House also signed a new card for the Republican-controlled State Board of Education, which sets standards for public schools in Texas. Still on the agenda is a House vote on a reshuffle of the state’s Congressional map that would largely protect Congressional incumbents while reducing the number of districts in which black and Hispanic residents make up. the majority of eligible voters. This vote is expected on Saturday.
If passed, the cards could remain in place for the next 10 years, although it is almost certain that they will face legal challenges that could lead to changes.
The cards angered Democrats, civil rights groups and Texans statewide who criticized Republicans for failing to adequately reflect the major role people of color have played in increasing the population of the state. Of the nearly 4 million people added to the population count, 95% were people of color. Almost 2 million were Hispanic.
Yet neither map includes new districts in which Hispanics would constitute the majority of eligible voters in a district to elect their preferred candidates.
House approves Senate card
In the Senate, there are currently 21 districts where the majority of eligible voters are white, seven with a Hispanic majority, one where black residents are in the majority, and two where no racial group makes up more than half of the total. The proposed map would create 20 districts where the majority of eligible voters are white, seven with a majority Hispanic, one where black residents are in the majority, and three where no racial group makes up more than half.
State Representative Rafael Anchía, D-Dallas, said the proposal did not reflect the nearly equal population of Hispanic and White Texans in the state.
“There are nearly three times as many majority white districts compared to the Hispanic majority,” he said.
Lead author of the map, Senator Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said she drew the map “blindly” but executed it by state attorneys to ensure it ‘it complied with the legal requirements of the redistribution process.
In certain circumstances, lawmakers are required to take into account the racial demographics in the state to ensure they are complying with the Voting Rights Act of 1965. But Huffman declined Democrats’ demands for clarification. measures it used to ensure that the cards comply with the law.
Since the law was enacted, Texas has not gone a decade without a federal court reprimanding it for violating the protections of voters of color.
The stakes are higher during this redistribution cycle. In 2013, the United States Supreme Court essentially removed a provision from the voting rights law that required states with a history of racial discrimination, such as Texas, to obtain federal government approval before bringing changes to electoral laws or political maps.
As a result, this will be the first unbuffered cycle of redistribution in Texas for voters of color who believe the legislative shuffle of the political cards is discriminatory.
The absence of new constituencies where voters of color are in the majority will have a political impact.
Sixteen Republican candidates will be drawn to safe districts for re-election, while two Senate seats left vacant by Republicans would almost certainly go to new GOP candidates rather than Democrats next year based on the percentage of voters in the country. district who voted for Donald Trump against Joe Biden in last year’s presidential race.
Democrats would also likely lose North Texas Senate District 10, represented by Senator Beverly Powell of Fort Worth. This would shift the partisan composition of the Senate from the current 18 Republicans and 13 Democrats to 19 Republicans and 12 Democrats according to the proposed map.
Voters of color in the district, which is located entirely in Tarrant County, have banded together with white voters over the past decade to elect their prime candidates. Its eligible voters are 21% black, 20% Hispanic and 54% white.
But according to the proposed map, the black and Hispanic populations of SD 10 are divided into two other predominantly white districts.
Voters who remain in the newly drawn District 10 would also see major changes. Black and Hispanic voters in urban areas south of Fort Worth would be lumped together with seven rural counties to the south and west, bringing the district’s eligible white voter population to 62% while shrinking its voter population. colored.
Tarrant County House Democrats have warned that federal courts have ruled that a similar attempt to redesign the district over the past decade has been ruled discriminatory in a federal court. They proposed several amendments to keep District 10 entirely within the county.
But the Republican majority rejected these amendments. State Representative Chris Turner D-Grand Prairie criticized Republicans in the House for relying on the legislative tradition of not changing the cards in the other house.
“Tradition does not prevail over voting rights law,” he said. “Tradition does not trump the Constitution. Tradition does not trump what is right and wrong.
Senate approves House card
The new House card also removes the potential influence of Hispanic and black voters over the election of their representatives.
The map reduces the number of districts in which Hispanics constitute the majority of eligible voters from 33 to 30. The number of districts with black residents as the majority of eligible voters would increase from seven to six. At the same time, the number of white majority constituencies among eligible voters would drop from 83 to 89.
The card passed through the Senate Chamber without any discussion, except for an earlier objection by State Senator Eddie Lucio Jr., a Democrat from the Rio Grande Valley, at a redistribution committee meeting Senate Friday morning.
Lucio denounced a revision of the map that would carve out the predominantly Hispanic communities of the Rio Grande Valley in the service of the creation of a new competitive House district in the typically blue region. The change, forced by a member who does not represent the affected districts, has blinded Chamber members in the region.
“Members, this is my fourth redistribution session,” Lucio told the rest of the committee. “During my tenure in the Legislature, I have never seen such blatant disregard for process. “
Meanwhile, Republicans have rejected Democratic proposals to create new opportunities for Hispanic or black Texans to control the election.
State Representative Todd Hunter, the Corpus Christi Republican serving as the House’s chief map designer, has previously argued that the map “ensures fair representation for the citizens of Texas” while complying with the federal law.
The new draw will ultimately help Republicans’ ability to control the chamber for years to come.
The House map creates 85 districts that would have favored Trump at 2020 support levels and 65 that would have voted for Biden. The House’s current partisan breakdown is 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats, although Trump won only 76 of the current districts in 2020.
State Board of Education Map
The House also approved by a vote of 84-61 new cards for the State Board of Education, a 15-member body that is currently made up of nine Republicans and six Democrats. The proposed map changes the partisan distribution of the council. Seven of the districts went to Biden in the 2020 general election, but under the new proposal, Biden would only have won six of the districts.
Again, Democrats lamented that the growth of people of color in the state is not reflected on the map. The current cards have eight districts where the majority of eligible voters are white, four where the majority is Hispanic, and three which do not have a majority. The proposed cards will include seven districts where the majority of eligible voters are white, four where the majority is Hispanic, and four which do not have a majority.
Anchía said those numbers are “not even close to being proportional” to the state’s population. He urged lawmakers to remove the maps drawn by the Senate and come up with its own maps that would reflect the growing Hispanic population in the state.
“Stamping this bill in rubber is just as bad as having it originally drawn,” he said. “We can do better. “