Texas Adds No New Districts Where Blacks, Latinos Over 50 Percent of Population

Texas' newly divided map added no new districts where Black or Latino voters make up more than 50 percent of the population, despite people of color accounting for more than nine of 10 new residents in the state in the past decade, the Associated Press reported.

The new map was approved late Monday by Texas Republicans despite opposition from Democrats, who decried the speed of the redistricting process, the lack of time for public input and the decrease in so-called minority opportunity districts.

The new map, authored by Republican state Senator Joan Huffman, reduces the number of opportunity districts for Latino voters from eight to seven, even though the Latino population drove much of Texas' growth since the last census.

"What we are doing in passing this congressional map is a disservice to the people of Texas," Democratic state Representative Rafael Anchia said to the chamber shortly ahead of the final vote on the map.

Huffman told other lawmakers that the district lines were "drawn blind to race" and that her legal team made sure the plan for the map was in line with the Voting Rights Act. Governor Greg Abbott is expected to give final approval to the map changes, AP reported.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Texas Redistricting. Map
Texas’ newly divided map added no new districts where Black or Latino voters make up more than 50 percent of the population, despite people of color accounting for more than nine of 10 new residents in the state in the past decade. Above, the state Capitol in Austin. Eric Gay/AP Photo

Civil rights groups, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, sued before Republican lawmakers were even done Monday. The lawsuit alleges that Republican mapmakers diluted the political strength of minority voters by not drawing any new districts where Latino residents hold a majority, despite Latinos making up half of Texas' 4 million new residents over the last decade.

Abbott's office did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Republicans have said they followed the law in defending the maps, which protect their slipping grip on Texas by pulling more GOP-leaning voters into suburban districts where Democrats have made inroads in recent years.

Texas has been routinely dragged into court for decades over voting maps, and in 2017, a federal court found that a Republican-drawn map was drawn to intentionally discriminate against minority voters. But two years later, that same court said there was insufficient reason to take the extraordinary step of putting Texas back under federal supervision before changing voting laws or maps.

The maps that overhaul how Texas' nearly 30 million residents are sorted into political districts—and who is elected to represent them—bookends a highly charged year in the state over voting rights. Democratic lawmakers twice walked out on an elections bill that tightened the state's already strict voting rules, which they called a brazen attempt to disenfranchise minorities and other Democratic-leaning voters.

The Texas GOP control both chambers of the Legislature, giving them nearly complete control of the mapmaking process. The state has had to defend their maps in court after every redistricting process since the Voting Rights Act took effect in 1965, but this will be the first since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling said Texas and other states with a history of racial discrimination no longer need to have the Justice Department scrutinize the maps before they are approved.

However, drawing maps to engineer a political advantage is not unconstitutional. The proposal would also make an estimated two dozen of the state's 38 congressional districts safe Republican districts, with an opportunity to pick up at least one additional newly redrawn Democratic stronghold on the border with Mexico, according to an analysis by AP of data from last year's election collected by the Texas Legislative Council. Currently, Republicans hold 23 of the state's 36 seats.

Following negotiations between Texas House members and state senators, the Houston-area districts of U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat who is serving her 14th term, and U.S. Representative Al Green, a neighboring Democrat, were restored, unpairing the two and drawing Jackson Lee's home back into her district.

Texas lawmakers also approved redrawn maps for their own districts, with Republicans following a similar plan that does not increase minority opportunity districts and would keep their party in power in the state House and Senate.

Abbott to Sign Redistricting Map
Texas Governor Greg Abbott is expected to sign off on the new state redistricting map that adds no new opportunity districts for Black or Latino voters. Above, Abbott speaks at a news conference in Austin on June 8, 2021. Eric Gay/AP Photo