Texas Republicans set to pass new congressional maps

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Texas Republicans were due to approve redesigned U.S. House maps on Saturday that would strengthen their eroded dominance as voters break away from the GOP in the state’s burgeoning suburbs.

After they pass through Texas House, the cards will go to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign them as law.

The redesigned map of congressional districts makes it easier for incumbents to retain their seats and may blunt the political influence of black and Hispanic communities, even as those voters drive the growth of Texas. The new lines, the product of a decade-long redistribution process, create two new districts and make several less competitive for Republican lawmakers. The proposal does not create any additional districts where black or Hispanic voters constitute a majority, even though people of color have made up more than 9 of 10 new residents to Texas over the past decade.

Democrats and voting rights advocates prepare to challenge the cards in court in what would be another large-scale, high-stakes legal battle over Texas politics – already the epicenter of abortion disputes and voting rights.

State Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat from San Antonio, said the cards were drawn to keep incumbent GOP lawmakers in power and “isolate communities of color” – which lean for Democrats – from a way that limits their ability to determine the outcome of elections. Gutierrez said he expects to see legal challenges alleging both racial discrimination and procedural errors on the part of the authors of the map.

Texas was the only state to win two seats in Congress following the 2020 census.

Republicans who control both houses of the Legislature have almost complete control over the mapping process. They are working from cards that experts and the courts have already declared gerrymandered in their favor, and the state has had to defend their cards in the courts after every redistribution process since the entry into force of the Human Rights Act. vote in 1965.

But legal challenges face new hurdles this cycle – the first since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that Texas and other states with a history of racial discrimination no longer need the Department. of Justice examines cards before they are approved. Complainants must now wait to file claims and must show that the cards were intentionally intended to discriminate on the basis of race. Drawing maps to create political advantage is not unconstitutional.

Gutierrez argues that a map drawn regardless of race could result in as many as three new predominantly Hispanic districts and one new predominantly black district.

“There you have clear evidence that what they did was racist, so they can water down the vote, so they can stay in power,” Gutierrez said.

Republican State Senator Joan Huffman, who drew the maps and heads the Senate Redistribution Committee, told fellow lawmakers they were “blind to race.” She said her legal team made sure the proposal complied with voting rights law.

The proposal would make 24 of the state’s 38 congressional districts safe Republican districts, with the potential to reclaim at least one newly redesigned Democratic stronghold on the border with Mexico, according to an Associated Press analysis of the data collected. in last year’s election. by the Texas Legislative Council. Currently, Republicans hold 23 of 36 state seats.

Republicans with newly bolstered perks include Representative Van Taylor, whose suburban Dallas district picked President Donald Trump by just one percentage point last year. According to the new cards, Trump would have won the district in double digits.

Representative Michael McCaul, whom Democrats have aggressively targeted the past two cycles, would now represent a strongly pro-Trump district under lines that exclude Houston suburbs and liberal parts of Austin.

And a long, vertically-drawn district stretching from the Rio Grande Valley to San Antonio that President Joe Biden won by just over 2 percentage points would now be tilted slightly towards Trump voters.

Democrats, meanwhile, have protested the new lines that are removing some of their long-time residents even while their seats are protected. US Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat serving her 14th term, would see her home removed from her Houston district along with 200,000 of her former voters. She could still stand for re-election.

Texas lawmakers are also redrawing the maps of their own districts, with Republicans following a similar plan that would keep their party in power in the state House and Senate. These proposals are also expected to be sent to Abbott by next week.

Jen Ramos, political associate of Jolt Initiative, an advocacy group that promotes civic participation of Latinos, said the new maps showed a dilution of power in predominantly Latin American areas such as the Rio Grande Valley.

“Texas should be like its elected officials and elected officials should not choose their constituents,” Ramos said. “Voters should choose their representatives.”

Gina Castaneda, 66, drove from her home south of San Antonio in Austin early Wednesday to testify against the Cards. Castaneda, who is Hispanic and politically conservative, said her neighborhood alone is divided into three congressional districts.

“The way the census goes, and I’ve been saying this for many years, Hispanics are going to be the majority minority,” Castaneda said. “We have to make sure that the representation is there and that we are able to fight the battle with our elected officials. “

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Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber contributed to this report. Coronado is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.


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