Texas Republicans Set To Pass New Congressional Maps

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Republicans on Saturday have been set to approve redrawn U.S. House maps that will shore up their eroding dominance as voters peel away from the GOP within the state’s booming suburbs.

After passage within the Texas House, the maps will go to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is anticipated to signal them into legislation.

The redrawn congressional districts could make it simpler for incumbents to carry their seats and will blunt Black and Hispanic communities’ political affect, whilst these voters drive Texas’ progress. The new traces, the product of a once-in-a-decade redistricting course of, create two new districts and make a number of much less aggressive for Republican lawmakers. The proposal doesn’t create any extra districts the place Black or Hispanic voters make up a majority, whilst folks of colour accounted for greater than 9 of 10 new residents in Texas over the previous decade.

Democrats and voting rights advocates are getting ready to problem the maps in court docket in what can be one more high-profile, high-stakes authorized battle over Texas politics — already the epicenter of disputes over abortion and voting rights.

State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat from San Antonio, mentioned the maps have been drawn to maintain incumbent GOP lawmakers in energy and “isolate communities of color” — who lean Democratic — in a method that limits their potential to find out the result of election. Gutierrez mentioned he expects to see authorized challenges alleging each racial discrimination and procedural missteps by the map’s authors.

Texas was the one state to achieve two congressional seats following the 2020 census.

Republicans who management each chambers of the Legislature have nearly full management of the mapmaking course of. They are working from maps that specialists and courts have already declared as gerrymandered of their favor, and the state has needed to defend their maps in court docket after each redistricting course of for the reason that Voting Rights Act took impact in 1965.

But authorized challenges face new hurdles this spherical — the primary for the reason that U.S. Supreme Court dominated in 2013 that Texas and different states with a historical past of racial discrimination now not must have the Justice Department scrutinize the maps earlier than they’re permitted. Plaintiffs should now wait to file claims and should present that maps have been deliberately meant to discriminate by race. Drawing maps to engineer a political benefit just isn’t unconstitutional.

Gutierrez contends a map drawn with out taking race under consideration may yield as many as three new majority Hispanic districts and one new majority Black district.

“There you have clear evidence that what they have done is racially gerrymandered, so that they can dilute the vote, so that they can stay in power,” Gutierrez mentioned.

Republican state Sen. Joan Huffman, who authored the maps and leads the Senate Redistricting Committee, instructed fellow lawmakers that they have been “drawn blind to race.” She mentioned her authorized staff ensured the proposal adopted the Voting Rights Act.

The proposal would make 24 of the state’s 38 congressional districts protected Republican districts, with a possibility to select up a minimum of one extra newly redrawn Democratic stronghold on the border with Mexico, in keeping with an evaluation by The Associated Press of information from final 12 months’s election collected by the Texas Legislative Council. Currently, Republicans maintain 23 of the state’s 36 seats.

Republicans with newly fortified benefits embrace Rep. Van Taylor, whose district in Dallas’ exurbs went for President Donald Trump by a single proportion level final 12 months. Under the brand new maps, Trump would have gained the district by double-digits.

Rep. Michael McCaul, who Democrats aggressively focused the final two cycles, would now symbolize a solidly pro-Trump district below traces that exclude Houston’s suburbs and liberal components of Austin.

And an extended, vertically drawn district stretching from the Rio Grande Valley to San Antonio that President Joe Biden gained by simply over 2 proportion factors would now barely tilt towards Trump voters.

Democrats, in the meantime, protested new traces that take away a few of their longtime residents whilst their seats are protected. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat who’s serving her 14th time period, would have her home drawn out of her Houston district in addition to 200,000 of her former constituents. She may nonetheless run for reelection.

Texas lawmakers are additionally redrawing the maps for their very own districts, with Republicans following an identical plan that will maintain their occasion in energy within the state House and Senate. Those proposals are additionally anticipated to be despatched to Abbott by subsequent week.

Jen Ramos, political affiliate for Jolt Initiative, an advocacy group that promotes Latino civic participation, mentioned the brand new maps confirmed a dilution of energy in majority Latino areas such because the Rio Grande Valley.

“Texas should look and sound like its elected officials and elected officials should not pick their constituents,” Ramos mentioned. “Constituents should pick their representatives.”

Gina Castaneda, 66, drove from her home south of San Antonio to Austin early Wednesday to testify towards the maps. Castaneda, who’s Hispanic and politically conservative, mentioned her neighborhood alone is cut up into three congressional districts.

“The way the census is going, and I have said this for many years, Hispanics are going to be the majority minority,” Castaneda mentioned. “We need to make sure that the representation is there and we are able to fight the battle with our elected officials.”

Associated Press author Paul J. Weber contributed to this report. Coronado is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit nationwide service program that locations journalists in native newsrooms to report on undercovered points.