Texas Republicans pass voting map bolstering white power

Texas Republicans are on the verge of enacting a new voting map that will root the state’s Republican and white majority even as its non-white population grows rapidly.

Texas Republicans approved the congressional plan Monday evening, sending it to Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, who is expected to sign off on the act.

The Texas map offers perhaps the boldest attempt in the United States so far this year to draw new district lines in favor of a single political party, a practice known as conspiracy. The proposed congressional map would dull the growing power of Democrats in the Texas suburbs. Texas Republicans already have a 23-13 seat lead in the state’s congressional delegation and the new map will double the safe number of GOP congressional seats in the state from 11 to 22, according to the Washington Post.

Democrats will have 12 secure seats, up from eight. There will be only one competitive congressional district in the state, down from 12.

The map also clearly dulls the political power of Texas’s growing minority. Over the past decade, the Hispanic population has grown to nearly 2 million people in the state, while the white population has increased by about 187,000 people. Ninety-five percent of the state’s population growth over the past decade has come from minorities, but the proposed congressional map actually decreases the number of districts in the state where non-whites make up the majority. There will be one additional district where whites make up the majority of the electorate.

“You have to try really hard to draw a district that doesn’t consider 95% growth in communities of color. I mean you have to be really intentional,” said Rafael Anchia, a Texas home Democrat who leads the Mexican American Legislative Caucus. “In district after district, the voting power of the minority population is diluted again and again.”

Republicans have submitted their map proposals through state legislatures, giving the public little chance to have their say. Sometimes hearings are announced with just 24 hours notice, and some of the votes to advance plans happen late at night. “The legislature just finished this,” said Anchia.

“It’s quite demoralizing, to be honest with you,” he added. “You have the rigged rules of the game from the last decade, which allows the majority to manipulate the rules of the redistricting process to then continue to hold power and reject people’s policy outcomes that will materially impact their lives.”

Civil rights groups have filed a federal lawsuit seeking to prevent states from using maps in the future. The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal court in San Antonio, argues that the map violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its 14th amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law. The maps “unlawfully undermined the voting power of Latinos”, wrote the lawyer representing the plaintiffs, and “deliberately discriminated against them on the basis of race and national origin”.

Republicans have complete control over the state government in Texas, which also means they have complete control over the re-election process. The new map offers a clear example of how MPs can stop political change and virtually guarantee their re-election for the decade in which the map is used.

Republican efforts to maintain power are most evident in the suburbs, which are the fastest growing and some of the most diverse in the state. In some places, Republicans are annexing areas with fast-growing minority populations to rural areas that are more likely to vote for GOP candidates. The tactic of ensuring the district will remain red reliably.

“What this map tells me is [Republicans] don’t believe they are getting back white voters in the suburbs, so they decided we’re just going to use rural voters to neutralize the suburbs,” said Michael Li, redistricting expert at the Brennan Justice Center. .

This is a strategy that is fully displayed in places like suburban Dallas, which includes the 33rd congressional district.

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Hispanic voters make up nearly the majority of the district, according to the Texas Tribune. But on their new map, Republicans carved out most of Hispanics from the 33rd and attached it to the adjoining sixth congressional district, which stretches more than 6,000 square miles all the way into rural eastern Texas. Hispanic voters will be moved from Democratic districts where they have significant political weight to districts where whites have nearly the majority.

A similar strategy is on display in the Fort Bend area, which includes the southwestern suburbs of Houston. It is one of the fastest growing and most diverse in the entire country – almost evenly between whites, African-Americans, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans. Democrats have made clear gains there; Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden both ran for the district in 2016 and 2020.

Under the new Republican map, some of the most Democrat-leaning areas in the county will be merged with the already very Democratic districts of Houston. The remaining part of the county will be attached to the Republic’s sturdy rural areas. This is the configuration that will ensure Republican candidates can stay in the congressional district.

Since a 2013 Supreme Court decision hollowed out the Voting Rights Act, this will be the first time since 1965 Texas has not had to submit its maps to the federal government for approval before it goes into effect. This would be a huge boon for Texas, where courts have repeatedly dismissed the district as a violation of the Voting Rights Act in every decade since the law came into effect.

In 2011, when Texas still had to submit its maps for pre-approval, a federal court blocked the map from taking effect. Later, a federal court found that the 2011 map was passed with the intent to discriminate against minority voters.

A federal voting rights bill, For the People Act, pending in the Senate, would most likely block Texas congressional plans, Li said. The bill would allow courts to block the plan from being used if computer simulations showed the plan would result in a degree of bias beyond a certain threshold in two of the four most recent US Senate and presidential elections. The Texas plan would fail in all four elections, Li said.

Democrats will hold a vote on the legislation on Wednesday, but Republicans are likely to block it using the filibuster, a Senate rule that requires 60 votes to advance legislation. There have been calls for Democrats to get rid of the rules to pass the voting rights bill.

Earlier this year, Anchia and his fellow Democrats left Texas for several weeks, rejecting the lawmaker’s quorum as they sought to advance voting rights legislation. They spent time in Washington lobbying senators to pass federal voting rights.

“The Senate must act. They have to act because democracy needs it,” said Anchia.

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