AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Republicans released their proposals to redraw maps for their own seats Thursday, and their aspirations for the statehouse mirrored their plans for congressional representation: Keep the party in power amid big demographic shifts.
Democrats and Latino advocacy groups and others immediately protested, as the proposed maps had fewer districts with a majority of minority voters or that number remained the same, even though census figures show nine of every 10 new residents in rapidly growing Texas' are people of color. Hispanic people are nearly equal to white people in the latest Census data.
“We consider the map offered today as a starting point,” said state Rep. Rafael Anchía, a Democrat and the chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. “Texas voters deserve fair maps that allow them to elect their candidate of choice, not another decade of politicians picking and choosing their voters instead.”
Majority-Hispanic state House districts would decrease from 33 to 30 in this plan, the caucus said, while majority-Black state House districts went from seven to four in the 150-seat House of Representatives. The number of of majority-minority districts remained stable in the proposed 31-seat Texas State Senate map.
It was the last batch of newly proposed boundaries for the state's election districts. In Republican proposals to redraw congressional lines released earlier in the week, the number of districts with a majority of Hispanic voters would drop by one to seven, even though the state's gained two extra seats in Washington, D.C. Texas will now have 38 representatives in Congress after gaining 4 million residents over the past decade.
Meanwhile, in a Thursday hearing in the Texas Senate, state lawmakers debated a proposed congressional map which Democrat state senators said had been drawn without their party's input and moved hundreds of thousands of minority voters, particularly in the Houston area, out of historically Black majority districts. In a letter opposing the proposed maps, the state senators said the Houston address of fellow Democrat and U.S. House Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee had been drawn out of the district she represents, though that would not prevent her from running for re-election.
“Anyone could have contacted me, no one did," said Republican State Sen. Joan Huffman, chair of the state Senate's redistricting committee and author of the map, adding that she worked with an attorney representing the Republican congressional delegation who reached out to her.
Huffman said the maps had been viewed by attorneys and determined to be “legally compliant” according to the federal Voting Rights Act and said race was not taken into account in the drawing of the districts.
“Under the proposed map, you are aware we are trading a congresswoman who lives five miles from Fort Bliss for a member of Congress that lives 550 miles from Fort Bliss?" Democratic State Sen. Cesar Blanco said, pointing to a proposed move of the Texas military base and a nearby airport into Texas Congressional District 23, which extends from West Texas to San Antonio.
Republicans' proposed congressional districts focus on the shoring up suburbs as Republican stronghold, while one of the states two new congressional districts is expected to concentrate the growing Democratic vote in the state capital of Austin.
A representative from the League of United Latin American Citizens testified Thursday that the maps were not representative of the state’s growing Hispanic population— which gained nearly 2 million people— and should include a Hispanic opportunity district in one of the state’s diverse growing areas, such as Austin, Dallas or Houston.
Acacia Coronado is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.