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The Texas House on Wednesday reapproved the map of districts for its 150 seats, which was redrawn in 2021 and fortified the Republican majority while diluting the voting strength of Hispanic and Black voters.
The House made no changes to the map that was used for the first time in last year’s elections. Instead, its 85-65 vote on House Bill 1000 was meant to ensure lawmakers met constitutional requirements calling for legislative districts to be redrawn in the first regular legislative session after the results of the decennial census are published.
Pandemic-related delays pushed the release of the 2020 census results past the end of the last regularly scheduled session in May 2021.
The House will need to give the map a final vote this week before sending it over to the Senate for approval. The Senate rubber-stamped its own map earlier this month, which will go through the House’s redistricting committee this week.
In updating the House map to reflect a decade of population growth, lawmakers redrew district boundaries in 2021 to bolster Republicans’ ability to control the chamber for years to come and shore up districts that had grown competitive over the last decade.
But they also pulled back on Hispanic and Black voters’ potential influence in choosing their representatives.
The map lowered the number of districts in which Hispanics make up the majority of eligible voters from 33 to 30. The count of districts with Black residents as the majority of eligible voters dropped from seven to six. Meanwhile, the number of districts with a white majority among eligible voters grew from 83 to 89.
State Rep. Yvonne Davis, D-Dallas, proposed two changes to the map — one in East Texas and one in Bell County. Both changes would create districts where Black residents make up the majority of eligible voters. Rep. Drew Darby, a San Angelo Republican who chairs the House Redistricting Committee, opposed both of those changes, and each failed 64-85.
Like the Senate map, the House map drew the ire of Democrats, civil rights groups and Texans from across the state who criticized Republicans for not adequately reflecting the crucial role people of color played in fueling the state’s population gains. Of the nearly 4 million people added to the population count in the 2020 census, 95% were people of color. Nearly 2 million were Hispanic.
Both maps are the subjects of a collection of federal lawsuits challenging the Legislature’s redistricting work as discriminatory against Texans of color. In that litigation, the broad set of plaintiffs suing the state argue the Republican-controlled Legislature used the once-a-decade redistricting process to draw maps solidifying the GOP’s political dominance while weakening the influence of voters of color.
They are joined by the U.S. Department of Justice in their legal challenge, which also includes the Legislature’s redraw of the state’s congressional map that largely protected incumbents in Congress while reducing the number of districts in which Black and Hispanic residents make up the majority of eligible voters.
In court, the state has largely argued plaintiffs do not have enough evidence to show the Legislature discriminated against Texans of color in its mapmaking and that, if anything, the Legislature made decisions based on partisan considerations.
The three-judge panel in charge of the case has yet to reschedule a trial over the new political maps after delaying a September 2022 trial because of disputes over discovery that left both the state and the various plaintiff groups questioning whether they’d have enough time to prepare to make their cases in a federal court in El Paso.
Pooja Salhotra contributed to this report
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