As the Senate redistribution plan was under scrutiny, the state’s first Congressional Map, showing two additional Congressional Districts, was released. (Community impact staff)
Lawmakers set to draw new districts for the Texas Senate and state congressional allocation, following public hearings Sept. 24-25 for Senate and Board of Education maps of the state, and a proposed congressional district map released on September 27.
Senator Joan Huffman, R-Houston, chair of the Senate Committee on Redistribution, drew the three publicly available maps with attorney for the Texas Attorney General’s office. During the public hearings, Huffman answered questions from other members of the bipartisan committee.
New Congressional Districts Proposed for Texas
Following the 2020 census results, Texas won two congressional seats, the largest increase in the country, bringing its delegation to 38 representatives in the House of Representatives.
The main constraint on the design of congressional districts is the requirement that they be of equal size. According to Richard Murray, professor of political science at the University of Houston, this leaves room for redistribution committees to “break” or “pack” populations so that a party can control most of the seats.
“We are the only state that has won two seats in the country,” Murray said. “There is immense pressure [on Republican lawmakers] do something.”
Murray predicted that the card proposed by Congress was a way for Republicans, who control the process, to secure their incumbent congressional representatives. He cited the 2nd Congressional District held by Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, as an example. The neighborhood previously extended into the Montrose neighborhood of Houston, but was redesigned to move away from the city and instead extend into Montgomery County.
Legislation for the redistribution of Congress passes through both houses of government in the same way as other bills. If the legislature does not map Congress by the end of the legislative session, a subsequent session must be called; if the governor does not call a subsequent session, state or district courts will draw maps.
Cards approved by the legislature can be challenged under Section II of the Voting Rights Act 1965. Murray said the standards of proof of a Section II violation have been raised, making the more difficult task for the challengers.
Senate hearings on cutting bills
The Texas Senate Redistribution Committee has held its first public hearings on proposed maps for the Texas State Board of Education and the Senate, tabled as Senate Bill 4 and Senate Bill 7, respectively.
Senator Juan Hinojosa, D-El Paso, presided over the hearings. Senators on the Redistribution Committee, including Senator Beverly Powell, D-Burleson, questioned Huffman, focusing primarily on his processes.
Huffman has faced questions from senators and members of the public about how minorities in various districts of Texas have been affected by the proposed maps. She repeatedly replied that the cards were “not drawn on a racial basis.”
Several Texas residents, representing advocacy groups, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the League of United Latin American Citizens, also testified before the committee. Local government officials, including Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, also testified on behalf of voters.
The committee took no action on the proposed maps due to public testimony. A new hearing on the card changes is scheduled for September 28.