Texas Senate approves congressional map that draws no new black or Hispanic districts, even though people of color fueled growth
The Texas Senate on Friday approved a card 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 – hampering growth in Democratic Party representation from state in Washington, DC
The Congress map focuses more on protecting incumbents than increasing the power of the dominant Republican Party in the state by turning districts from red to blue. But the map, proposed by GOP State Senator Joan Huffman of Houston, helps Republicans by increasing the number of districts that would have voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election and by decreasing those that would have been for Joe Biden.
The map also hampers the ability for Democrats to bridge the gap between the two parties in the Texas Congressional delegation by drawing fewer districts in which voters of color make up the majority of eligible voters, who tend to lean for them. Democrats in the state. The state’s current delegation consists of 23 Republicans and 13 Democrats.
Currently, based on the eligible electoral population, the state has 22 districts with a white majority, eight with a majority Hispanic, one with a majority black, and five without a majority.
But although the state’s population growth allowed the state to receive two more seats in Congress over the next decade, state lawmakers have not drawn any new seats where voters of color form the backbone. majority of eligible voters.
Even then, people of color have led 95% of the state’s population over the past decade, with Hispanics making up nearly 2 million of the state’s additional 4 million.
Responding to criticism that lawmakers had not reflected this growth, Huffman said that although she drew the map “regardless of race, it is wrong to say that race has been totally ignored.”
She said she passed her drafts of the map through the attorney general’s office, which carried out further analysis to ensure the state was complying with the voting rights law, which protects citizens. voters of color against discrimination, and the US Constitution. But she declined Democrats’ requests to explain the analyzes state attorneys performed on the map.
Democrats argue that their analysis of U.S. census data supports the creation of more districts where voters of color made up the majority, especially Hispanics.
“We were assured that all existing minority opportunity neighborhoods, whether black or Latino, would function as such,” Huffman said. “And we haven’t seen any solid basis that a new minority opportunity district should be drawn on the new maps.”
Senator Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, proposed a map that would create three additional districts where Hispanics made up the majority, bringing the number of those districts to 10.
But Republicans rejected the proposal, with Huffman saying the amendment was drafted less than 24 hours before the Senate vote on the maps and would result in a “detailed and thorough racial gerrymander” in North Texas to sketch a new district in. Hispanic majority in the same region. as the current Congressional District 33, represented by U.S. Representative Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth.
Gutierrez accused Republicans of racial discrimination against voters of color.
“How else to describe a situation where Texas gains new political power due to the physical presence of millions of black, brown and Asian bodies, and yet the political establishment does not give these same Texans the opportunity to elect more than candidates to represent them? ” he said in a statement. “It is an insult to the foundations of our democracy. “
Depending on the maps on offer, voters of color could end up with less representation in their delegation to Congress. The new map drops the number of districts in which Hispanics make up a majority of eligible voters from eight to seven, and districts in which black Texans make up a majority of eligible voters from one to zero.
The number of districts where whites make up the majority of eligible voters increases to 23, even as the state’s white population – which only increased by 187,252 – has been overwhelmed by the growth of people of color.
Democrats urged the Senate to change the proposed cards because they would otherwise attract incumbents like Houston Democrats Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green to the same district. Lee, which represents the 18th Congressional District which covers part of downtown Houston and some of the city’s historically black neighborhoods, is drawn from his district and loops into Green’s 9th Congressional District.
Both lawmakers testified before the Senate Redistribution Committee to oppose the redistribution of their districts. Lee said his district had been redesigned “in a surgical, flawed and unconstitutional manner.”
Green noted that the congressional delegation had only five black members, and two of them were drawn to the same district.
But lawmakers couldn’t agree on how to redraw the maps to minimize the impact on Lee and Green District.
This is the first round of political mapping in Texas since the United States Supreme Court overturned provisions to protect voters of color from discrimination. Previously, states with a long history of electoral discrimination, such as Texas, had to receive federal approval before making changes to election laws or political maps.
But the Supreme Court essentially removed that requirement in 2013, leaving no buffer for voters of color if lawmakers passed discriminatory cards.
Since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, Texas has not gone through a decade without a federal court reprimanding it for violating federal protections for voters of color.
Civil rights groups like the NAACP and the League of United Latin American Citizens have told lawmakers the Senate proposal dilutes the voting power of black and Hispanic voters in the state.
Dallas-based LULAC president Domingo Garcia told a Senate committee hearing that if the maps did not change to reflect the growth of Hispanics in the state, his organization would likely sue the state.
The congressional card is now traveling to the Texas home for approval before it can be signed by Governor Greg Abbott. The card could potentially see changes and must be approved before the end of the special legislative session which ends on October 19.
Carla Astudillo contributed to this report.
From the Texas Tribune