The Texas House on Wednesday approved proposed political boundaries for the lower chamber’s 150 districts that aim to fortify Republicans’ strength in the state House for the next decade.
The House’s 83-63 vote comes as the Legislature rounds out its third special session of the year, an up to 30-day stretch ordered by Gov. Greg Abbott that has focused on redrawing the state’s congressional, Senate, House and State Board of Education maps based on the latest census data. Those numbers, which were delayed largely because of the pandemic, showed that people of color fueled 95% of the state’s population growth over the past decade.
Despite those growth 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. Meanwhile, the number of districts with a Hispanic majority among eligible voters would drop from 33 to 30, while the number of districts with Black residents as the majority of eligible voters would go from seven to six. Those numbers are based on census estimates of the number of citizens in each district who are of the voting age.
The new map includes 85 districts that would have voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election and 65 that would have voted for Joe Biden. That’s one less Trump district than was originally proposed in the House late last month. The current partisan breakdown of the House is 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats, though Trump only won 76 of the current House districts in 2020.
The special session is slated to end Oct. 19, which means lawmakers have a week left to hash out differences over those maps and other items included on the agenda set by Abbott.
See here for the background, and here for the map. This Trib story goes in deeper about that weird donut job in Bell County. At this point, the Lege might actually finish off their business in time to prevent the need for a third session, given that all they need to do is approve the other chambers’ maps. I would think that the SBOE and legislative maps would likely be easy enough for them, but maybe the Congressional map might get worked over in the House. Map drawing is a time honored way for ambitious legislators to find themselves a Congressional district to run in, after all. Or maybe they’re all sick of being in Austin and don’t have any desire to quarrel over small changes that favor one person over another. I thought it would take them longer to get this far, so who knows.
I mentioned before that the Heights was largely reunited under this new plan, all in HD145. There’s still a split in the Senate, with most of the Heights in SD15 but the eastern end in SD06. The main way that this reunification could occur was by radically moving HD148.
State Rep. Penny Morales Shaw, D-Houston, also opposed changes to her new district that she said leaves her with just a third of her current constituency.
Under the proposed map, Morales Shaw’s district would be shifted completely outside Loop 610, losing the Heights and Near Northside, most of which would be moved into state Rep. Christina Morales’ district. Morales Shaw’s District 148 would be expanded past Beltway 8 into northwest Harris County, taking in parts of Jersey Village and nearby suburbs, while cutting into area now represented by at least five other members.
The district’s Hispanic citizen voting-age population would decrease from 46 percent to 37 percent, and Morales Shaw said the residents that would be moved to other districts are from high-turnout communities.
“Chairman, from your knowledge, would you agree this dismantling and remaking of 148 is one of the most egregious examples that you’ve seen of retrogression in the Texas redistricting map?” Morales Shaw asked [State Rep. Rafael] Anchía during a round of questioning that seemed aimed at creating a record for a future lawsuit.
Anchía said District 148 is protected under Section II of the Voting Rights Act, which prevents discrimination against minorities during the political mapmaking process, “and to dismantle a protected district like that is one of the more problematic data points in the underlying map.”
Zoom in on that map and see for yourself. You know I’m pessimistic about any prospects for litigation, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
UPDATE: Reform Austin has some more details about the latest map.