Texas Democrats brace for battle with Republicans over redistricting

State & Regional

Texas Capitol on April 19, 2021. (Nexstar Photo/Wes Rapaport)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — With just a few days before the start of the third special session, Texas Democrats are bracing for a battle with Republicans over redistricting.

Redistricting, a process that determines congressional and state voting boundaries, is conducted every ten years following the completion of the census. The majority party tends to have a political advantage when deciding where the lines fall. This is especially true for Texas Republicans who control both chambers of the state legislature, as well as all statewide elected offices. 

“Texas wasn’t going to be satisfied with only attacking our voting rights. That was only a portion of their plan. The other big portion of their plan is up right now, and that’s redistricting,” said State Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas.

Rep. Crockett, State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, D-San Antonio, State Rep. Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin, and State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-Bexar, held a news conference on Friday to voice their concerns about redistricting, state lawmakers’ top agenda item for the upcoming special session.

Democrats in the state have accused Republicans of drawing gerrymandered maps that discriminate against communities of color and believe this time around will be no different. “They’re [Republicans] going to try to eviscerate communities of color, they’re going to try to pack districts in their favor as they’ve done in the past,” said Gutierrez. 

Gutierrez, State Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, and the Tejano Democrats even filed a lawsuit at the first of the month claiming that the Texas Constitution does not allow the legislature to take up redistricting during a special session.

However, some Republican lawmakers are also concerned about gerrymandering, particularly Rep. James White, R-Hillister, who sits on the Texas House redistricting committee. White wants to prevent rural counties from being divided by districts drawn to include urban cities but believes there are already rules in place to limit the practice, including the country whole rule, which requires districts to encompass entire counties when possible.

Texas Democrats think differently and, in a last-ditch effort to ensure an equal and fair drawing of maps, are urgently calling on Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act. The bill prohibits gerrymandering along party lines and grants courts leeway to strike down maps that disproportionately silence people of color. 

When asked about the consequences of Congress failing to act, Fischer starkly replied, “You know, the effect of federal legislation not passing and normalizing elections as well as normalizing redistricting, is the net effect of having a U.S. House Majority switch hands and then we’ll spend the next few years listening to impeachment hearings on President Biden until the next election.”

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