By Brianna Patt

With the news of a new proposal map being drawn up — which is believed to exclude Black and Brown communities and offer more power to rural, White ones — many are asking just how overt the changes will be.

Texas’ specific history with gerrymandering began back in 2003 when the then House Majority Leader, Rep. Tom DeLay, re-drew lines to offer between five and seven seats to Republicans. This was done in the middle of the decade, an “unprecedented step” as district maps are changed every 10 years. DeLay argued that since 57% of Texas voters were backing Republicans, it would only be fair for them to hold more than fifteen of the 32 U.S. House seats. 

According to Spectrum News, there was already concern over re-drawing excluding Black and Brown communities, but DeLay argued that the new map would grow Hispanic communities from six to eight districts and Black communities from two to three districts. Spectrum News stated that from 2000 to 2010, Texas grew by four million people, with 90% of those people being minorities. Despite this large influx, throughout that time not a single minority group received an extra seat in Congress. The argument by DeLay that re-drawing lines is not necessarily exclusionary considering the significant increase in the minority population, ultimately showed no real effect on the congressional seats. In fact, according to an AP News Analysis, Texas’ 2010 plan helped Republicans win more House seats than any other state.

In 2018, National Public Radio reported that the U.S. Supreme Court found that Texas’ congressional and legislative maps, excluding one (House District 90), did not participate in the racial gerrymandering it had been accused of. In the court’s dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor stated that the ruling of the court majority was a move to go out of their way to allow for racial discrimination to continue.

“The Court today goes out of its way to permit the state of Texas to use maps that the three-judge District Court unanimously found were adopted for the purpose of preserving the racial discrimination that tainted its previous maps,” said Justice Sotomayor.

Fast forward two years and the closest the state of Texas has gotten in recent times to breaking the trend of preserving its status as a red state was in the November 2020 election. Texas experienced a record turn out, and while Donald Trump managed to win Texas by a nine-point margin, it was the smallest margin win in a red state for a Republican candidate in 20 years. According to the Texas Tribune, the results for the November 2020 election were far more reflective of the urban (i.e. typically Democratic) areas in Texas than in previous years.

“The Court today goes out of its way to permit the state of Texas to use maps that the three-judge District Court unanimously found were adopted for the purpose of preserving the racial discrimination that tainted its previous maps,” said Justice Sotomayor.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor

As of 2021, the issue of re-drawn lines reinforcing inequality continues to persist. In the current proposed map, there are six districts with a majority of White eligible voters, while Black and Hispanic districts, which are the two Texas demographics that (according to KSAT) primarily voted for Biden in the election, each dropped by three. According to the New York Times, what makes this year particularly impactful is that this map had no “preclearance,” meaning that changes to the congressional map of historically discriminatory states like Texas do not have to be looked over by the Department of Justice. According to the Texas Tribune, an attempt by Dallas Democratic Rep. Toni Rose was made to implement an amendment that requires the federal district court to clear the map, but failed. Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer stated that to him, this map is an assault on the people’s rights.

“The passage of the Republican Texas House redistricting proposal this morning is part of a coordinated attack on the voting rights of Americans,” Fischer said. “That has been waged both in Texas and across the country.” 

Though Hunter stated that the shift in the map would still allow for those in “majority-minority districts,” to vote for a “minority preferred candidate,” an analysis of the congressional map by the Texas Tribune showed that minority communities would be pushed into rural communities with primarily White representatives (specifically in North Texas). With the new map, for instance, Hispanic voters would be drawn into a mainly rural neighborhood where White voters would be making up the majority of the eligible voting demographic.

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Despite what Hunter is saying, this map shifts power to White districts in an observable, overt way for the next 10 years. It is far from being a new tactic and if anything, there is an uncomfortable correlation between the arguments used by Hunter and DeLay when confronted about their maps. Both insist the maps are not racially discriminatory because of the districts they add, DeLay insisting there would be growth in Black and Hispanic districts, and Hunter insisting that the proposed map would offer districts where Hispanic and Black people are the majority. But the outcome is a boost for White, Republican areas. Hunter is deflecting from the fact that Black and Hispanic groups make up 95% of the population growth Texas has experienced, yet are both losing three districts respectively. Even if the argument is that redrawing lines is not specifically a racial issue, it evidently targets and limits the communities that were responsible for almost turning Texas blue. Racial discrimination is still a stain on our congressional maps no matter how you spin it. It was in 2003 and 2018, and it will be for the next decade.

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