AT THE CAPITOL Texas Legislature progresses on state, congressional redistricting
MAPMAKING 101 Unlike some other states, Texas relies on the state Legislature to redraw districts for the Texas House, Senate, congressional districts and State Board of Education every 10 years. The redistricting process must pass through the Legislature like any other bill.
Redistricting occurs on rst regular session after census is released, but due to timing, it is occurring in special session in 2021
BY JISHNU NAIR & DARCY SPRAGUE
in the rst regular session following the publication of the U.S. census, the unique timing of the 2020 census meant that redistricting had to take place during a special session. If the Legislature does not draw a congressional map before the current session ends on Oct. 19, another session must be called. If the governor does not call a session, state or district courts will draw maps. According to the state’s redistricting website, the two basic requirements for the process are that districts must have as close to equal population as possible, and districts cannot limit voting based on race, color or language group. A 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case, White v. Regester, dened “equal population” as a plan where the most populous district has at most 10% more than the ideal district population—or the state population divided by the number of districts. Populations cannot be more or less than 10% of the ideal population, the redistricting website states. An additional constraint for state House districts is the “county line rule,” which says districts cannot cross county lines, unless population size demands otherwise. However, Murray said the process allows for redistricting committees to “crack” or “pack” populations so that a party can control most of the seats. “We’re the only state that gained two seats in the country,” Murray said. “There’s immense pressure [on Republican lawmakers]
As part of the special session agenda set by Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas lawmakers are setting the state’s legislative, congressional and State Board of Education districts for the next decade. Texas saw growth in Hispanic, Black and Asian populations from 2010-20, according to the 2020 census. Texas’ growth resulted in two new U.S. House seats in 2021 for a total of 38 Texas representatives in Washington, D.C. Richard Murray, a political science professor at the University of Houston and former redistricting advisor to Texas’ Black legislative caucus, said minority populations also moved toward the suburbs—which could inuence howmaps are redrawn. “The minority populations have grown dramatically, but it has also dispersed,” Murray said. “There’s a lot of Black and brown ight to the suburbs, more than previous decades.” As of Oct. 16, Senate Bills 4 and 7 as well as House Bill 1, which redraw maps for the state Senate, State Board of Education, and state House, respectively, have passed in the House and Senate and await signage. Senate Bill 6, which redraws congressional districts, passed both chambers as of Oct. 17, but the Senate disagreed with the House’s amendments, and a joint conference committee was called. Changes to 2021 process While the Texas Constitution species the process must happen
Redistricting set on session agenda
Senate Redistricting Committee and House Redistricting Committee each draft separate maps, amendments
Senate votes on Senate committee maps and House votes on House committee maps
Senate votes on House committee maps and House votes on Senate committee maps
Maps reconciled between houses, sent to governor’s desk
IF GOVERNOR APPROVES
IF GOV. DOES NOT APPROVE
Governor vetoes bill
Governor signs maps into law
Legislature can overturn veto with two-thirds majority; if Legislature fails to overturn veto, a backup commission draws maps
Maps can be challenged in court
SOURCES: RICHARD MURRAY, UNIVERSITY OF HOUSTON; TEXAS LEGISLATURECOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
to do something.” One change removed preclearance, which the U.S. Supreme Court struck down in 2013, per the redistricting website. Part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, preclearance required states with a history of racial discrimination to submit plans to the federal government for approval. Maps bring changes to Austin area State Rep. James Talarico, DRound Rock, announced Oct. 13 that he will run for state House District 50 instead of 52, his current district. “Republicans have gerrymandered me out of my district,” Talarico tweeted.
“If they think they can keep me o the House oor, they better think again.” Talarico said he will move into District 50. He said the changes to District 52 will force him out by “gerrymandering” it to be more Republican, a move he said also harms voters of color by splitting them into dierent districts. Celia Israel, the current District 50 representative, is leaving the House to run for mayor of Austin. Two new congressional districts will also be added, according to the maps, including one in Austin and the other in Houston.
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