Around 3:30 AM Wednesday, after a 16-hour debate, Texas Republicans pushed through their state House redistricting map on a vote of 83-63. Redistricting is a complex process that requires careful attention to detail and a comprehensive understanding of the law. That is not what we saw from Texas Republicans, who abused the legislative process at every step of the way to rush a vote on their discriminatory map.
The adopted state House plan splits communities of interest in key areas across the state, and drastically undermines Texas’ massive minority population growth. Here are some of the most egregious examples:
- The Rejection of Voluntary Preclearance
Given Texas’ recent history of practicing intentional discrimination when drawing redistricting maps — and given the lack of federal protection after Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013 — House Democratic Caucus and Redistricting Committee Vice-Chair Toni Rose (D-Dallas) offered an amendment requiring this map to undergo federal preclearance before taking effect. The amendment was voted down 64-81.
- The Rejection of a Racial Impact Analysis
Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) offered an amendment to require the Secretary of State to conduct a study evaluating the impact of these new districts on communities of color, and to share the results of that study with the public. The amendment was voted down 64-80.
- The Refusal to Acknowledge Protected Districts
During the debate, I offered an amendment adding a section of legislative findings to the bill that enumerated a list of 71 House districts that are protected under the Voting Rights Act of 1965, stating they may not be retrogressed in a redistricting map drawn by the Legislature. The amendment was voted down 63-81.
Bill author and Redistricting Chair Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) refused to share what he considered a protected district when drawing his map throughout the debate, despite stating a week before in committee that he had a list of protected districts and would provide that list to Members. We still have not received that list.
- The Rejection of Demonstration Maps
Mexican American Legislative Caucus Chair Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas) and Texas Legislative Black Caucus Chair Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth) each offered amendments to the proposed map that would ensure Texas had a proportional number of majority Latino and majority Black districts (respectively) to reflect the state’s population. These maps were rejected by Republicans.
- Bell County
One of the most egregious examples of racially discriminatory redistricting in the Texas Republicans’ map is in Bell County, where an amendment offered in committee drew HD 54 to entirely encircle HD 55. When looking at the demographics of the county, it is clear the new lines split the city of Killeen, cracking Black and Hispanic communities to ensure the districts continue to vote Republican.
- Denton County
HD 65, which is represented by Rep. Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton), performs as a majority-minority, coalition district in Denton County. However, in this new map, the district’s communities of color are diluted. HD 65 is now one of six additional majority white voting age population seats created in the Texas Republicans’ plan. Rep. Beckley brought an amendment on the Floor that would have made the communities of interest in her districts whole again, but it was voted down.
- Cameron County
One of the most contentious moments of the debate came when Republican Rep. J.M. Lozano (R-Kingsville) brought a last-minute amendment to several districts in the Rio Grande Valley that would pair two Latino incumbents and create an open seat in Cameron and Willacy Counties. Rep. Lozano did not speak to anyone in the RGV delegation — which he is not a part of — before bringing the amendment. The change was ultimately approved, and HD 37 saw its Latino citizen voting age population drop by nearly ten percentage points in the process.
- El Paso County
The initial proposed Republican state House plan paired two Latina representatives in El Paso County and relocated HD 76 to Fort Bend County. Despite efforts in committee and on the House Floor to avoid stripping El Paso of one of its five districts, all amendments were voted down and the map passed with the pairing in place.
- Bexar County
At the last minute, Republican Rep. Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond) — who does not represent any part of Bexar County — brought an amendment reconfiguring the lines of HD 118, a seat with no current incumbent. The map that passed out of the House drops HD 118’s Latino citizen voting age population by about seven percentage points, as compared with the initial Republican proposal.
- House District 90
HD 90, which is represented by Rep. Ramon Romero, Jr. (D-Fort Worth), was a focal point of last decade’s court rulings that found intentional discrimination in the maps drawn by Texas Republicans. Once again, the communities within HD 90 have been split, with several historic neighborhoods being relocated to HD 99.
Texas Republicans also took other unnecessary actions, such as radically reconfiguring HD 31 and HD 52 for partisan advantage in their map.
Texas House Democrats will continue to fight back against maps that disenfranchise voters, undermine communities of interest and deny Texans fair representation — but it’s time for Congress to take decisive action. The U.S. Senate must pass the John Lewis Act to fully restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and ensure Texans, and all voters across the country, are granted the fair representation guaranteed by our Constitution.
Rep. Chris Turner
Texas House Democratic Caucus