After US Census data revealed a surge in population growth among people of colour in the state, Texas lawmakers have approved changes to political boundaries that would all but guarantee Republican control in the state’s House of Representatives for another decade.
The state joins a once-a-decade nationwide redistricting battle to redraw the lines of political representation amid rapidly changing demographics and the GOP’s ongoing attempts to make voting more difficult while undermining the results of election outcomes.
But for the first time in decades, states are also redrawing their political maps without federal oversight, after the US Supreme Court struck down a critical element of the landmark Voting Rights Act that requires jurisdictions with histories of discrimination – like Texas – to have federal “preclearance” before proposed rule changes can go into effect.
That requirement was stripped out in 2013.
Without those safeguards, the boundaries covering the 150 state house, 31 state senate, and 38 congressional districts in Texas are being redrawn without any guardrails against racial discrimination or partisan abuse in one of the fastest-growing states in the country.
The state’s House passed the proposal at 3am on Wednesday morning, and the House committee on redistricting took up the changes only several hours later.
Critics argue that the latest redistricting plan in Texas dilutes minority voting power across several counties and favours incumbents in a state where Republicans control both chambers of the state legislature as well as the governor’s office.
The plan received a grade of “F” for competitiveness among party candidates from Princeton University’s Gerrymandering Project.
Between 2010 and 2020, the population in Texas grew by nearly 14 per cent. Nonwhite Texans and people who reported backgrounds of two or more races accounted for 95 per cent of that growth, according to Census data.
The number of Latino residents grew by nearly 2 million over the last decade.
Nearly all of the population gains are within three major metropolitan areas, among the largest in the country. That growth means the state will gain two more seats in Congress, as well as four seats in the state House.
Despite those trends, the number of districts in which white people make up the majority of eligible voters would increase from 83 to 89 in the new map, according to an analysis from The Texas Tribune.
The number of districts with a Hispanic majority among eligible voters would also be reduced from 33 to 30, and the number of districts with majority Black residents among eligible voters would be cut down from seven to six.
The map would establish 85 districts that would have voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, and 65 that would have voted for Joe Biden. Mr Trump won only 76 of the current House districts in 2020.
“Texas’s growth over the last decade has been staggering and almost entirely driven by people of colour,” according to the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School.
“At stake in this redistricting cycle is the political power of the growing Latino, Black, and Asian communities in Texas’s rapidly diversifying cities and suburbs,” the organisation reported. “Whether they receive the representational gains that should result from their increases – or whether they instead see their political power diluted by gerrymandering – remains to be seen.”
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