New redistricting maps underrepresent recent minority population growth

Since Texas presented its new redistricting maps, the state has faced legal challenges mounting against the newly-proposed State House, State Senate and Congressional districts, which may have political ramifications in the future.

The House and Senate Redistricting Committees, composed of Texas Legislature members from both parties, used data from the U.S. Census to draw the maps, which Gov. Greg Abbott approved Oct. 25, according to The Texas Tribune.

Redistricting, or the redrawing of Congressional districts, occurs every 10 years after the census is conducted, said Brent Boyea, associate professor and interim chair of the Political Science Department. 

The U.S. Census Bureau conducts a population count and collects information about the American public every 10 years. They then provide this data to all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

State Rep. Chris Turner, who represents parts of Arlington and Grand Prairie in District 101, said the Texas Legislature must ensure they reflect the growth of Hispanic and Asian communities in political representation, but they haven’t been doing that. 

Turner said he believes the maps have deprived Arlington residents of accurate political representation.

“Texas gained two new congressional districts, and that’s due to minority growth,” he said. “Yet Republicans gave both of the two new congressional districts to Anglo communities.”

Redistricting is an opportunity for the political party in power to protect or grow their majority, and this is where it becomes controversial, Boyea said. 

Political science professor Thomas Marshall said Republicans and Democrats are trying to squeeze out every extra seat possible since the maps remain in effect for the next 10 years once they are in place. 

“Political parties are squeezing out extra seats, incumbents are trying to protect themselves,” Marshall said. “The speaker and Lieutenant Governor are trying to get a friendly body behind them to punish their enemies and reward their friends. And there’s no scrap of mercy or compassion to be had.” 

States may win or lose seats in the House of Representatives depending on their population gains or losses, he said.

A congressional district reflects a geographic area from which members are elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, according to the U.S. Census website. The number of congressional districts combined with two senators’ votes indicate the state’s electoral vote number during an election.

Texas had 38 electoral votes during the 2012, 2016 and 2020 election, so it will now have 40 votes because of the two added districts. 

The state redraws the congressional district seats to account for those new districts, Boyea said. According to the Texas Tribune, from the two seats, one is in Austin and the other is in Houston, both of which are dominated by white voters.

“Those same numbers by the Census are also used to redraw the lines for city council, state legislature, county commissioners,” Marshall said.

The redistricting maps have caused controversies among Texans, as multiple civil rights organizations have filed lawsuits to challenge them.

The League of United Latin American Citizens, a Hispanic and Latino-focused civil rights organization, points out in its lawsuit against Governor Greg Abbott that from 2010 to 2020, the Hispanic population of Texas increased by 1.98 million compared to the white non-Hispanic population, which only increased by 187,252.

LULAC also claims Hispanics make up 39.3% of Texas’ population while Anglos make up 39.7%. Despite making up similar shares of the population, Hispanics no longer control three State House districts and one Congressional district. In contrast, white voters gain control of six extra House districts and one Congressional district, according to the Texas Tribune.

The Mexican American Legislative Caucus, a group of Latino lawmakers in the Texas Legislature, filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas and Gov. Abbott. The MALC claims redistricting plans are discriminatory on the basis of race and dilute Latino voters’ influence.

Asian Americans are also a rapidly growing demographic in Texas. Between 2000 and 2019, the state’s Asian American population grew by 883,000, according to the Pew Research Center.

In North Texas’ Collin County, an area with particularly fast growing numbers of Asian Texans, new districts were drawn around Asian neighborhoods, splitting them up into different districts, according to the Texas Tribune.

Despite having the most rapid growth compared to other racial groups, Asian Americans do not control any Congressional, State House or State Senate districts in the state.

Boyea called the redistricting process a raw exercise in political power. He said since Republicans have the majority, they do not have to listen to Democrats politicians about the issue. 

“This is partisan politics laid out for everyone to see,” he said. 

But Turner said the redistricting maps aren’t strictly about partisanship.

Texas Republicans could draw a partisan map that benefits Republicans without discriminating against minority voters, yet they don’t do that, Turner said.

“They drew maps in the last decade that were found to be intentionally discriminatory by federal courts,” he said. “I believe that’s what they’ve done again.” 


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