Texas House Approves New District Cards, Strengthening GOP Majority

Texas House on Wednesday morning approved a map of the new political districts that would strengthen Republican control of the chamber, protect incumbent lawmakers on both sides and reduce the number of competitive districts across the state.

Democrats criticized the map for not reflecting the rapid growth of the Hispanic and Asian population over the past decade. They argued that the proposed cards would reduce the number of districts where non-whites constitute the majority of eligible voters.

But Republican Rep. Todd Hunter of Corpus Christi, author of the new house map, fended off criticism. He maintained that his plan creates two new neighborhoods where Hispanic residents constitute the majority of the population and a new neighborhood with predominantly black residents.

Following:Texas House panel approves political map with fewer black and Hispanic majority districts

The issue was at the center of the 4 p.m. debate on the proposal in the House on Tuesday which dragged on until Wednesday, culminating in an 83-63 vote depending on the party to pass the card.

“We believe we have obeyed the law and fulfilled our obligations to our citizens and our constituents,” Hunter said when he introduced the bill. “I appreciate that everyone is trying. I know that in any redistribution, some have problems and some don’t – that’s the nature of redistribution. “

Race-based changes

The Legislative Assembly must redraw political constituency boundaries every ten years after the publication of the decennial census. This year’s census data has been delayed by the pandemic, prompting lawmakers to undertake the redistribution process in a special legislative session, instead of in the regular session earlier this year.

During Tuesday’s debate, Democrats proposed numerous amendments to address concerns that the card dilutes the voting power of Texans of color, who accounted for 95% of the state’s population growth over the past decade. , according to the 2020 US Census.

The state’s population grew from 25.1 million in 2010 to approximately 29.1 million. The new ideal population size for residential neighborhoods is 194,303, compared to 167,367 in 2010 during the last redistribution process.

“When communities of color make up 95% of all growth and you actually reduce the number of communities of color that can elect whatever people they want to the districts, then increase the number of English-speaking districts – I think that ‘ is a substantial failure. Said Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas, while introducing an amendment that would have killed the entire bill.

Following:Austin’s population drops by less than one million, after another decade of remarkable growth, census data shows

Anchia also proposed an amendment that would have redrawn the map to create more districts with predominantly Hispanic populations. Representative Nicole Collier, D-Fort Worth, also came up with a new map that would have added additional Black Majority Districts. Neither has been adopted.

Representative Gene Wu, D-Houston, proposed an amendment at the start of the debate that would have required the Texas Secretary of State to conduct a racial impact study of the proposed districts, using population estimates that take into account the citizenship as the basis of the analysis. The amendment was not adopted.

Small changes adopted

Lawmakers approved many changes to the proposed map, including small adjustments to districts across the state.

The most significant changes have occurred in Harris and Dallas counties.

A successful amendment of Anchia would create two more districts in North Texas with a predominantly black population and another district with a predominantly Hispanic population.

In Austin, Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, made a few small adjustments to neighborhoods near downtown, slightly adjusting the boundaries of the neighborhood he represents and adjacent areas. The amendment is adopted.

Following:Texas Senate approves congressional map that increases white majority districts

The House also approved an amendment from Rep. Erin Zwiener, D-Driftwood, that would redesign her residence in the district she represents. Hunter’s original draft map would have moved Zwiener from House District 45 to neighboring House District 73, a more Republican area.

Zwiener’s Amendment also keeps Wimberley in the same district, instead of dividing it between HD 45 and HD 73.

The debate was for the most part cordial, but one amendment sparked intense discussion among lawmakers. Representative JM Lozano, R-Kingsville, proposed a change to the Rio Grande Valley districts that would make House District 37 more competitive for his party.

Representative Alex Dominguez, the Democrat who represents HD 37, opposed the proposal and said Lozano had not led the change through members of the Rio Grande Valley delegation before proposing the amendment.

Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, also spoke out against the proposed change, telling members of the House that his remarks would likely be the last time he addressed the House during a debate. Lucio is not a candidate for re-election in 2022.

“Please let our delegation speak and vote no on this amendment,” he said.

The amendment was adopted 72-70.

Talarico is moving

Rep. James Talarico, D-Round Rock, was not removed from the district he represents in the final version of the bill, but said the new boundaries approved by members had transformed the 52-house district. from a competitive district to a Republican stronghold.

The new lines expand the district to include rural areas north of Georgetown.

Talarico said on Wednesday that he plans to move to Austin and run for the 50th house district. That district is represented by Representative Celia Israel, D-Austin, who is considering running for mayor of Austin and not seeking re-election.

“The Republicans in Texas are trying to eliminate me by using racist gerrymandering to divide our community. If they think they can keep me out of the house, they better think again, ”Talarico said. “I am grateful to everyone who urged me to return to North Austin – where I grew up – to run for the seat vacated by my friend Celia Israel.”

According to the new district map, House District 50 would cover parts of northern Austin

El Paso lawmakers twinned

In drawing the map, Hunter said his priority was to avoid dividing ridings between districts and to keep each district as compact as possible. He said he also made an effort to avoid “twinning” lawmakers or attracting more than one lawmaker to the same district.

At least one couple remained on the final card: Democratic Reps Lina Ortega and Claudia Ordaz Perez from El Paso were drawn to the same neighborhood covering parts of downtown El Paso. Ordaz Perez spoke out against the bill and said it deprived citizens of the district she represents.

“The proposed card not only dilutes minority representation in Texas, it erodes the earnings of female representatives, who were elected in record numbers by voters in Texas in the last election cycle,” she said. “To all judges who would review these proceedings, I ask: How many more decades of minority population growth are needed before this body truly resembles the people it represents? How unbalanced must the minority population of this state be before people of color are properly represented? ”

Following:Texas Republicans and Democrats set to start redistribution battle on Monday

The final version of the legislative maps should be challenged in court. Unlike past redistribution efforts, Texas lawmakers this year can adopt new political boundaries without first obtaining federal approval through a preclearance process, a requirement adopted for states like Texas with a track record. discrimination against non-white voters.

Representative Toni Rose, D-Dallas, proposed an amendment that would have required a federal district court to first approve the state’s new political boundaries before they could be passed, but he did not been adopted.

The final version of the map must be approved by the Senate. The House still has three other redistribution tasks to complete: approving new maps for the Texas Senate, state districts in the United States, and districts for the State Board of Education. The Senate approved these cards earlier this month.

The 30-day special session is scheduled to end on Tuesday, but Gov. Greg Abbott could order another special session.

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