The Texas Senate released the first of its proposed redistricting maps Saturday and Monday, kicking off the decennial process of redrawing the state’s political maps as the Legislature convened in Austin for a special session.
Authored by Sen. Joan Huffman—the Republican chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee—, the proposed map suggests new district lines for the 31-members of the Senate that would include comfortable majorities of voters who supported Trump, thus helping to secure the incumbents’ seats. The new map includes 19 Senate districts where Trump voters outnumbered Biden voters — up from 16 districts currently. The proposal would also change the racial composition of the 31-districts by dispersing the minority voters that the U.S. census data revealed to have made up 95% of the population growth in the state.
Huffman also put forward a new map for the 15-member state Board of Education. The maps will likely be amended as they move through the Legislature and head to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for approval. After they have been signed into law, moreover, lawsuits will move redistricting into the courts, possibly resulting in more changes before the 2022 elections. However, this is the first time in decades federal law allows Texas to draw and use political maps without federal approval to ensure that they’re not disenfranchising the voting rights of people of color. That federal preclearance requirement in the Voting Rights Act was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013.
Both proposals drew immediate criticism from Democrats and civil rights advocates who say they are calculated to cement GOP majorities at the expense of disenfranchising the people of color who drove Texas’ population surge.
“The state is almost 50-50 Democrat-Republican, and yet the makeup of these maps — the gerrymandering of these maps — is clearly meant for them to stay in power, which we all know,” said state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a San Antonio Democrat who has already filed a lawsuit to stop the Legislature from redrawing maps this year.