LUBBOCK, Texas — The U.S. Census Bureau released initial 2020 demographic data this week, revealing Texas gained 4 million residents in the last decade and is set to add two new representatives in the U.S. Congress.
The data is the first step towards redrawing the lines that determine representation in Congress, the state legislature, city governments and school boards for the next ten years. The Texas House Redistricting Committee announced today they will present their proposed maps beginning in September. Mayor Dan Pope told KAMC News this week that they will also aim to begin redistricting work in earnest next month, aiming to complete the process in December.
Notably, the vast majority of population growth in Texas is attributed to an increase in minority residents. There are nearly 2 million more Hispanics in the state than in 2010, compared with just over 187,000 residents who identify as White alone. Civil rights lawyers in Texas liken this scenario to the stage set ten years ago, when courts found the state legislature guilty of drawing maps that dilute the political power of new Hispanic populations.
“Unfortunately in Texas, the legislature has been found by courts to violate the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act every decade for the past half century,” Texas Civil Rights Project attorney Joaquin Gonzalez said. “Last decade it was a similar story where particularly the increasing Hispanic population led to new congressional seats, but those seats were drawn to diminish the voting power of Hispanics and the court found that was unconstitutional.”
Racial gerrymandering is not limited to congressional districts or any particular political party either, the Texas Civil Rights Project noted.
“Up until the 1990s, Texas was a one-party Democratic state… and [in] every redistricting cycle since the 1960s, a court has found that they intentionally discriminated,” Gonzalez said.
Lubbock City Council will set out to redraw the local city council districts, and the local school boards will redraw the district that their trustees oversee. Mayor Dan Pope says his strategy for completing this process is straightforward.
“You follow the state and federal laws that dictate how you redraw districts,” Pope said. “What you want to do is make sure every vote is counted; one person, one vote.”
Gonzalez noted that Lubbock is one of the communities with a rapidly-growing minority community.
“For a long time… local jurisdictions had to get approval of their maps by the federal Department of Justice before they could draw them, and there were hundreds of instances across the state where local jurisdictions weren’t able to net their maps because they would have been discriminatory,” Gonzalez said. “This is the first redistricting cycle where that won’t be in place. It’s going to be really interesting to see what the local communities do, especially in places where minority places are growing quicker than white populations – like in Lubbock.”