If power reveals character, as LBJ biographer Robert Caro has argued, then what does the power of Texas Republican lawmakers in Austin say about them? When it comes to the proposed legislative maps they released last week, it says elected officials here are plum terrified of the voters in the districts they now represent.
How else to interpret the outrageous maps presented last week, ones that aim to dilute the voting power of growing pockets of minority voters and keep incumbents — especially Republican incumbents — in office no matter how much the voting population in their districts has changed in the past decade?
Texas’ total population grew by 4 million in the last decade. Nearly 95 percent of that growth came from Latino, Asian and Black residents. Those new voters brought change across Texas, including turning many of the state’s largest suburban counties purple and putting Democrats firmly in control of local government in Harris and Dallas counties. Across the state, congressional seats that were reliably Republican in 2012 were fiercely competitive by the end of the decade.
But rather than embrace that competition and fight to persuade new voters that Texas is in good hands under nearly all-Republican rule, Republicans are running from it. In doing so, they aren’t just making it harder to win for Democrats, who currently hold just 13 of Texas’ 36 congressional seats. The proposed maps for the U.S. House and Texas House and Senate released last week also dilute the impact of Texas’ fast-growing minority communities. Minorities often vote for Democrats, but as 2020 showed, especially among Texas Latinos, that’s not a foregone conclusion.
Of the current congressional districts, 22 have white majorities, eight have Latino majorities, one is majority Black and five are without a clear majority. The new map proposes 23 districts with white majorities, seven with Hispanic majorities, none with a Black majority and eight without a majority.
And in the Texas House map proposal released Thursday, Sept. 30, it’s the same story. The new maps have fewer Hispanic and Black-majority districts than the current maps, no Asian majority districts, and more white majorities. The Texas Senate map under consideration is marginally better. It doesn’t significantly dilute the racial representation in each district, but still manages to draw boundaries in a way that protects incumbents. While Donald Trump carried 16 of 31 districts in 2020, he’d have won 19 under the proposed boundaries.
Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston and chair of the redistricting committee, said last week race played no role in drawing the new maps. But regardless of intent, the results speak for themselves.