TEXAS—Texas House Republicans released their first draft of a proposed redistricting map for the 150-member chamber Thursday that would expand the GOP majority in and protect its incumbents across the state.
Like the maps proposed by lawmakers for the State Senate and U.S. Congressional districts, the House's proposed changes bolster the GOP districts and expands them slightly in mostly white populations, while decreasing existing minority-majority districts and ignoring the fact that 95% of the state’s population growth has come from an influx of minorities, particularly Hispanics.
Districts with a white-majority voting population would grow from 83 seats to 89 seats. Hispanic-majority districts would decrease by three seats, from 33 to 30. Black-majority districts would decrease from seven to four, according to the draft map. Districts with no clear majority would stay the same at 27.
The backlash against the proposed map’s lack of creating more seats for minority-majority populations was immediate from Democrats and civil rights organizations.
The Mexican American Legislative Caucus in the Texas House said the proposed maps, if signed into law as is, would dictate district lines for the next decade that did not represent the growth of Texas’ Hispanic population, now estimated to be 49.5% of the total state population.
“Texans deserve fair maps that allow them to elect candidates of their choice, not another decade of politicians picking and choosing their voters instead,” Rafael Anchia, the caucus president said in a statement.
The proposed House map shows other similarities with the first drafts of the congressional and State Senate maps in that some incumbents will now find themselves pitted against one other as their district lines overlap and become one. In some cases, the same party members will be vying for the same seat.
For example, two Republicans in Fort Bend County, outside of Houston, Jacey Jetton of Richmond and Phil Stephenson of Wharton, will now compete to represent House District 26 in 2022.
In El Paso, two Democrats are now paired for House District 77, Evelina "Lina" Ortega and Claudia Ordaz Perez. Ortega and Perez both criticized the proposed district changes.
The map filed today “reduced El Paso’s representation by drawing two Hispanic women incumbents, who represent border districts, into one House district,” Ortega said in a statement. “This is a direct attack on our border community and weakens the representation of minorities in the Texas Legislature.”
Annie’s List, a political group supporting progressive, female candidates, said the pairing of the two Democrats in District 77 showed the “Republicans are attempting to gerrymander districts to try to take back power by diluting the votes of communities of color,” wrote Royce Brooks, the group’s executive director, in a statement.
“Plainly put: They’re trying to silence women’s voices because they can’t beat us in a fair game.”
Two Republicans were paired in Hosue District 19, Kyle Biedermann, of Fredericksburg, and Terry Wilson, of Marble Falls. Biedermann tweeted that the proposed district would ensure that it had conservative representation for the “foreseeable future."
Many lawmakers finding themselves paired with a fellow House member in the same party will not be affected as they have already announced they will not be seeking reelection or are seeking another office.
House District 63 in North Texas’ Denton County would shift in the favor of Republicans under the proposed plan. That seat would pair Democrat Michelle Beckley who currently holds the seat in District 65 with Republican Tan Parker, who currently represents District 63. Since both of those House members have announced that they will seek other offices in 2022, Beckley for Congress and Parker for the State Senate, the proposed House District 63 could lean in the Republican’s favor.
The redistricting process begins every decade after the release of the U.S. Census numbers. Texas 87th Legislature is currently in a special session — the third this year — dedicated to redrawing the State House, Senate, U.S. Congressional as well as the State Board of Education maps. The proposed House map released Thursday is the last of the first draft versions to come out of the special session before public and legislative debate begins on the process.
First draft maps will likely change before they get to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for signing.
Capital Tonight's Karina Kling contributed to this report.