On Monday Gov. Greg Abbott signed a fair amount of Texas Legislature Bills, including:
– HB1, Texas House map, relating to the composition of districts for the election of members of the Texas House of Representatives.
– SB4, Texas Senate map, relating to the composition of districts for the election of members of the Texas Senate.
– SB6, congressional map, relating to the composition of the districts for the election of members of the United States House of Representatives from the State of Texas.
– SB7, SBOE map, relating to the composition of districts for the election of members of the State Board of Education.
These new political maps for the state’s congressional, legislative, and State Board of Education districts, will be used for the first time in next year’s primary and general elections, barring any court interventions.
Census data shows that Texans of color accounted for 95% of the state’s population growth, but the state’s new political maps don’t reflect this growth. Republicans drew maps for congress that would protect the GOP’s majorities, diluting the power of voters of color. That came despite Democratic efforts — and pleas from members of the public — to create additional opportunities for voters of color to meaningfully influence elections.
In a bid to hold the political turf, Republicans zeroed in on some communities with high shares of potential voters of color — who are more likely to support Democrats — and grafted them onto massive districts dominated by white voters. To protect GOP incumbents, Republicans also made political districts less competitive, which could undermine many potential challengers’ campaigns.
According to The Texas Tribune, State Sen. Joan Huffman, the Houston Republican who led the redistricting in the Senate, said in a public meeting that lawmakers had drawn the maps “race-blind” and they had “not looked at any racial data” throughout the process.
“Colorblind has two meanings — one that decisions are made without racial bias. These maps have obviously been made with racial bias,” Elisa Gonzalez, a retired educator from Corpus Christi, told lawmakers at one public hearing that “the committee is color blind in terms of being deliberately blind to citizens of color by making maps that silence their impact.”
In the past, Texas was required to run any changes to its elections, including changes to district boundaries, by the U.S Department of Justice or a federal court, but in 2013, the U.S Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act, freeing the state from this process known as preclearance.
That means 2021 was the first time in nearly 50 years that Texas could implement new legislative and congressional districts without having to prove ahead of time that the maps don’t undermine the electoral power of voters of color. This leaves the voters of color and civil rights groups with fewer tools to challenge the discrimination that may tarnish the maps.
Even so, legal battles have already begun, a group of individual voters, organizations that represent Latinos, Voto Latino, and texas voters are challenging the state’s newly-enacted congressional map. Both complaints are claiming the districts drawn by the Legislature constitutionally dilute the voting strength of communities of color, particularly Lantinx and Black communities, violating the federal Voting Rights Act.
More legal challengers are expected to pop up in the near future.