Why Texas Republicans Are Proposing a New Congressional Map

Rather than trying to make significant gains in the state, where Democrats have been increasingly ascendant in recent years, Republicans appear to be trying to bolster their existing congressional delegation.,

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Texas Republicans propose a new congressional map that aims to protect the party’s incumbents.

The Texas State Capitol in Austin.
The Texas State Capitol in Austin.Credit…Matthew Busch for The New York Times
  • Sept. 27, 2021, 4:59 p.m. ET

Republicans in the Texas Legislature proposed a new congressional map on Monday that would preserve the party’s advantage in the state’s delegation to Washington amid booming population growth spurred by communities of color.

The new map was designed with an eye toward incumbency and protecting Republicans’ current edge; the party now holds 23 of the state’s 36 congressional seats. Rather than trying to make significant gains, the party appears to be bolstering incumbents who have faced increasingly tough contests against an ascendant Democratic Party in Texas.

Indeed, in the proposed map, there is only one congressional district in the state where the margin of the 2020 presidential election would have been less than five percentage points, an indication that the vast majority of the state’s 38 districts will not be particularly competitive.

Texas was the only state in the country to be awarded two new congressional districts during this year’s reapportionment, which is taking place after the 2020 census. The state’s Hispanic population grew by two million people over the past 10 years, and is now just 0.4 percentage points behind that of the Anglo population.

But the map proposed by the Republican-controlled State Senate redistricting committee, led by State Senator Joan Huffman, would decrease the number of predominantly Hispanic districts in the state from eight to seven, and would increase the number of majority-white districts from 22 to 23.

Though the map proposed on Monday was just a first draft and could undergo some changes, civil rights groups expressed alarm at the lack of new districts with a majority of voters of color.

“With Latinos accounting for nearly half of the total growth of the Texas population in the last decade, we would expect legally compliant redistricting maps to protect existing Latino-majority districts and potentially to expand the number of such districts,” said Thomas Saenz, the president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Texas has a long history of running afoul of the redistricting parameters set by the Voting Rights Act, having faced a legal challenge to every map it has put forward since the law was passed in 1965. But in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the act that forced some states to obtain approval from the Justice Department before making changes to voting laws or to congressional districts.

This year is the first time that Texas legislators have been free to redraw the state’s congressional map without following that requirement.

Across the country, each party is poised to press its advantage to create as many favorable congressional and state legislative seats as possible in states where its lawmakers control how maps are drawn.

On Friday, the National Redistricting Action Fund, a Democratic organization run by former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., sued Ohio over Republican-drawn state legislative maps that it argued had violated a 2015 state constitutional amendment.

In Nebraska this month, Democrats protested a proposed map from Republicans that split Douglas County, which includes Omaha, the state’s largest city, into two congressional districts. The Democrats eventually forced a compromise that maintained a district in which President Biden won a majority of votes. On Friday, Nebraska legislators agreed to pass a congressional map that preserves Douglas County as a single district.

Fast-growing Oregon is one of the few states where Democrats have the potential to press a redistricting advantage. The state is adding a sixth congressional district to its delegation, which now has four Democrats and one Republican. But the new map, set to pass on Monday, will most likely create a Democratic district, adding to Democrats’ advantage in the state.

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