GOP’s initial redistricting proposal also reduces number of competitive districts
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
AUSTIN (CFP) — Texas is getting two new seats in the U.S. House because of the state’s explosive population growth, most of which was because of increasing numbers of black, Hispanic and Asian residents over the last decade.
But the first legislative plan to redraw the state’s congressional maps, released September 27, actually reduces the number of majority-minority districts, drawing immediate howls of protest from advocacy groups and promises of protracted litigation.
The first draw of the state’s map — proposed by State Senator Joan Huffman of Houston, who heads the Senate’s redistricting committee – is the starting point of the fight over new maps, taking place in a special session that began September 20.
And while those maps are likely to change as legislative continues, the plan reflects the thinking of Republican leaders — who have total control over the reapportionment process.
Overall, the map would make life much easier for House incumbents of both parties by vastly reducing the number of competitive districts statewide.
To accomplish this, Republicans mapmakers have shifted lines to make GOP-held marginal districts more Republican friendly; as a result, however, safer Democratic seats have also been created.
The two new seats are split between the parties, with creation of a new Democratic district in liberal-leaning Austin. Overall, under this map, Republicans are likely to control 25 of 38 seats, a net gain of two seats, and have a chance at a 26th seat in South Texas, which saw a shift to the GOP in 2020.
Here is a look at some of the highlights of the new map:
- Texas is getting two additional seats because of the state’s population growth, raising the total number of seats from 36 to 38. The new map puts one of those seats in the Austin area, which will be Democratic, and another in the Houston suburbs, which will be Republican.
- In 2020, Donald Trump carried 22 districts and Joe Biden 14; the new map has 25 districts that Trump would have won and 13 that would have gone for Biden.
- In 2018 and 2020, there were as many as 10 districts in the Lone Star State that were somewhat competitive between the two parties. The new map makes these marginal GOP-held seats more Republican, with just one district where the margin between Joe Biden and Donald Trump in 2020 was less than five points. (The swing district, CD 15, is in South Texas and currently held by Democrat Vicente Gonzalez.)
- The current map includes 22 districts where a majority of voters are white; the new map has 23. The number of majority Hispanic districts falls from eight to seven, and the state’s lone majority black district is eliminated. However, the number of districts where no racial or ethnic group has a majority will rise from five to eight.
- In 2018, Democratic U.S. Reps. Colin Allred in Dallas and Lizzie Fletcher in Houston flipped long-held Republican seats, and they survived fierce GOP challenges in 2020. However, the new map makes both of their districts more Democratic by moving Republicans to adjacent districts to help GOP incumbents, which will leave Allred and Fletcher in safe seats.
- The new map puts Democrat Sylvia Garcia in the same district with Republican Dan Crenshaw in Houston and Democrats Sheila Jackson Lee and Al Green in the same district, also in Houston. However, House members aren’t required to run in the districts where they live, so all four would be able to shift to safe districts where they won’t have to run against each other.
- Texas is covered by the Voting Rights Act, which requires mapmakers to optimize electoral opportunities for minority voters, which means the reduction in majority minority districts in this map will almost certainly trigger a legal challenge if it survives the legislative process. However, because of a 2013 Supreme Court ruling, the state no longer has to get Justice Department approval for its political maps, forcing advocacy groups to use the courts to stop implementation.