The Texas legislature passed a new congressional map on Monday that gives disproportionate favor to Republicans and marginalizes the influence of nonwhite voters.
The map was passed by the Senate and the House largely on party lines, with nearly all Republicans voting in favor. Democrats have condemned the map, saying that the redistricting process was squeezed into the legislature’s special 30 day session, giving little time for discussion or public input. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign the map into law, which will give Republicans disproportionate control over the state for the next decade.
According to the Census Bureau, Texas’s population is about 41 percent white non-Latinx, nearly 40 percent Latinx, approximately 5 percent Asian and nearly 13 percent Black. Under the maps approved by the legislature, however, white people represent a majority in 60 percent of the congressional districts, as Mother Jones’s Ari Berman points out. Meanwhile, Latinx people represent a majority in only 18 percent of districts, and Black and Asian people do not represent a majority in any district.
Though the Texas GOP’s redistricted maps were already discriminatory in 2010, this round is slated to disenfranchise nonwhite voters even more than before. Whereas Latinx residents represented a majority in eight districts over the past decade, there will only be seven such districts in the new maps, despite Latinx residents making up about half of Texas’s new residents over the last ten years.
Due to the state’s population growth, Texas will be gaining two additional seats in the House. But, despite nearly all of the new population being people of color, the new map gives both seats to majority-white districts.
The new maps also consolidate and empower the GOP in particular, in the year after Texas was briefly poised to go blue in the 2020 election. Under the new map, the number of safe Republican seats would double from 11 to 22, with nearly the entire state becoming deep red districts with some Democratic strongholds like Dallas, Houston and Austin.
Democratic state lawmakers criticized the new map. “What we’re doing in passing this congressional map is a disservice to the people of Texas,” said Rep. Rafael Anchía before the vote. “What we’re doing is hurtful to millions of Texans — it’s shameful.”
Texas Democrats had fled the state this summer in attempts to block the Republicans’ voter suppression package, but were forced to return and restore quorum in the legislature when Republicans threatened to arrest them.
Several civil rights groups have sued Texas over the map. The plaintiffs, represented by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), say that the new maps violate the Voting Rights Act because they disenfranchise Latinx voters.
“Violation of voting rights is not a partisan issue,” said Thomas A. Saenz, president and general counsel for MALDEF. “Still, Texas has a uniquely deplorable record in its consistent disregard of Latino population growth over half a century of redistricting.”