Texas Republicans approved redrawn U.S. House maps that favor incumbents and decrease political representation for growing minority communities, even as Latinos drive much of the growth in the nation’s largest red state.
Following negotiations between Texas House members and state senators, the Houston-area districts of U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat who is serving her 14th term, and U.S. Rep Al Green, a neighboring Democrat, were restored, unpairing the two and drawing Jackson Lee’s home back into her district.
The new maps were approved following outcry from Democrats over what they claimed was a rushed redistricting process crammed into a 30-day session, and one which gave little time for public input. They also denounced the reduction of minority opportunity districts — Texas will now have seven House districts where Latino residents hold a majority, down from eight — despite the state’s changing demographics.
“What we are doing in passing this congressional map is a disservice to the people of Texas,” Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia said to the chamber just before the final vote.
GOP Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign off on the changes.
Civil rights groups, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, sued before Republican lawmakers were even done. The lawsuit alleges that Republican mapmakers diluted the political strength of minority voters by not drawing any new districts where Latino residents hold a majority, despite Latinos making up half of Texas’ four million new residents over the last decade.
Republicans have said they followed the law in defending the maps, which protect their slipping grip on Texas by pulling more GOP-leaning voters into suburban districts where Democrats have made inroads in recent years.
Texas has been routinely dragged into court for decades over voting maps, and in 2017, a federal court found that a Republican-drawn map was drawn to intentionally discriminate against minority voters. But two years later, that same court said there was insufficient reason to take the extraordinary step of putting Texas back under federal supervision before changing voting laws or maps.
The maps that overhaul how Texas’ nearly 30 million residents are sorted into political districts — and who is elected to represent them — bookends a highly charged year in the state over voting rights. Democratic lawmakers twice walked out on an elections bill that tightened the state’s already strict voting rules, which they called a brazen attempt to disenfranchise minorities and other Democratic-leaning voters.
The plan does not create any additional districts where Black or Hispanic voters make up more than 50% of the voting population, even as people of color accounted for more than nine of 10 new residents in Texas over the past decade.
The Texas GOP control both chambers of the Legislature, giving them nearly complete control of the mapmaking process.
Early voting underway
through Oct. 29.
7 a.m.-7 p.m ~ 7 a.m.-10 p.m on Oct. 28.
Mail-in ballots must be postmarked no later than 7 p.m. Nov. 2. Early voters can vote at any early voting center in Harris County.