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Politics

Texas lawmakers pass controversial new map for the U.S. House of Representatives

Todd Hunter
Haya Panjwani
/
KERA
Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi), chair of the House Committee on Redistricting, presents Senate Bill 6 to the full Texas House.

While Democrats hold firm in their accusations of racial gerrymandering, Republicans passed a map reallocating Texas’ seats in the U.S. House. A court challenge is likely ahead. 

The Texas House of Representatives on Sunday gave final approval to a new map of congressional voting districts that could shape how the state chooses members of the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade.

The map was originally drafted under the Senate as Senate Bill 6. It passed through the chamber and on to the House, where it passed Saturday night with a vote of 79 - 56.

Texas Democrats have pushed back against the Republican-controlled process throughout this special session, and were quick to criticize SB 6.

“Redistricting should be about giving Texans the fair and equal representation to which they are guaranteed under the Constitution,” Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), the Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair, said in a statement. “Just like every other map that has passed through the House during this Special Session, Texas Republicans abused the legislative process every step of the way to push this bill to the Floor.”

Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) drew the original map based on data from the 2020 census. It was presented to the House Committee on Redistricting by committee chair Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) .

How Texas' Population Has Changed

Texas saw roughly 95% of its population's growth fueled by communities of color. Democrats in the House argue that the proposed map does not reflect that growth.

“We know 50% of that growth was from Latinos alone,” Turner said. “But when given the opportunity to ensure Texas’ two new Congressional seats are representative of that growth, Texas Republicans said ‘no’ once again.”

Republicans have tried to somewhat push back on that narrative. During the initial layout of the bill, Rep. Hunter stated the maps were created on the basis of a few priorities the Senate had.

“The Senate indicated that it complies with all applicable law; in the constitution, the Voting Rights Act, and the requirement to equalize populations based on the 2020 Census,” Hunter said. “Keeping political subdivisions together, keeping communities of interest together, preserving the course of existing districts, creating geographically compact districts, directly partisan considerations and protecting incumbents.”

Nearly 30 amendments were filed by House lawmakers — both Democratic and Republican — ahead of the bill’s floor debate Saturday.

Rep. Turner proposed three amendments to Senate Bill 6 attempting to create more minority-majority districts in the state. All three failed.

Other amendments by Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) attempted to crack down on what Democrats saw as gerrymandering, specifically of Latino communities.

“The proposed new districts exaggerate that underrepresentation (of the Latino community),” Anchia said on the House floor. “It's immoral to prevent the creation of majority-minority districts like this. It's also likely illegal because it is obviously an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.”

While Anchia’s amendments also failed, lawmakers were able to put U.S. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston) back into her own district, and gave U.S. Congressman Al Green (D-Houston) part of his own district back, a decision Green testified in favor of at a recent redistricting committee hearing.

Prior to the final vote, Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City) addressed the full House in opposition to the bill.

“I ask you to be on the right side of history, to appeal to your social consciousness,” said Reynolds.

Next Steps For The Bill

Since the Senate and House version of the map are different, lawmakers must now sort out the differences in a conference committee.

After which, it will head to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk, to be signed.

In his statement, Turner said Democrats will challenge the map.

“Make no mistake — this redistricting plan will undoubtedly land Texas in court once again, and the very Texans who have been denied fair representation will also be on the hook for the legal costs of defending this map,” Turner said.

Got a tip? Email Haya Panjwani at hpanjwani@kera.org. Follow Haya on Twitter @hayapanjw.

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