Texas Republicans and Democrats set to start redistribution battle on Monday
Democrats and Republicans will return to Capitol Hill on Monday for a third special session that could reshape the partisan makeup of the US legislature and House of Representatives for a decade.
Drawing new boundaries for the congressional districts of Texas and the state’s House and Senate districts is the main item on the session’s agenda.
For Republicans, who control all aspects of the process, this is a chance to consolidate power within the state and push the US House of Representatives towards a Republican majority.
For Democrats, it will be a fight to retain as much power as possible and maybe even score a small victory here and there.
Following:Population growth will lead to overhaul of State House districts for the Austin area
Following:Texas’ Latin American growth and rural population decline sparks redistribution struggle
State Senator Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, said what she expects to see in the Senate is something “swift and straightforward”, with this chamber possibly approving map projects here the end of the week.
“It is highly likely that the cards are fired,” Eckhardt said. “They will be presented, they will be rejected by a party majority, and they will be pushed with as little comment as possible on the pitch.”
Every 10 years, states use new census data to redraw congressional and legislative constituencies. Texas lines are decided by the legislature, where voters have installed a Republican majority.
Due to continued population growth, Texas gains three seats in the US Congress, giving it 38 seats in the House of Representatives. Some projections have shown that these two new seats would likely be centered in Houston and Dallas, with one going to a Republican and the other to a Democrat.
But Democrats suggested on Friday that their fellow Republican, emboldened by their control over all chambers of state government and not in the mood to compromise, would attempt to draw constituencies that would be politically advantageous to them. The acrimony between the two parties has soared following the breaking of the quorum by House Democrats twice in an unsuccessful attempt to derail stricter election laws and the Supreme Court authorizing new restrictions on l ‘abortion.
Analysts in Washington have identified Texas as one of four states Republicans are focusing on redesigning ridings that could help secure a US House majority. The other states are Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina.
“These four states, including Texas, are expected to have plans for extreme gerrymandering that will silence a majority of voters and allow Republicans to cling to power with brute force,” said State Representative Gina Hinojosa, D-Austin.
Another example of how these political battles for congressional seats play out across the United States can be seen in New York City, where the Democratic-led legislature is laying the groundwork to attempt to secure five seats for the Democrats. .
Republican Rep. Todd Hunter and Senator Joan Huffman lead the card-drawing processes in every chamber in Texas. Neither returned messages asking for comment.
Austin area state officials Erin Zwiener, James Talarico and Vikki Goodwin may be forced to join more competitive districts. Each narrowly won in 2020 and represent a district that has grown rapidly over the past 10 years, which will allow Republicans to make major changes to its geographic makeup.
In the Texas Senate, Fort Worth Democrat Beverly Powell and San Antonio Democrat Roland Gutierrez could be targeted. They won their seats by less than 3.5 percentage points in their last election.
Gutierrez and Eckhardt have filed a lawsuit in an attempt to stop the redistribution, arguing that the Texas Constitution allows the redistribution to be done only during a regular session of the Legislature. Lawmakers were unable to redefine district boundaries during the session due to delays in releasing 2020 census figures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They are asking a federal court to step in and draw the cards in place of the legislature, a gamble that, if successful, could lead to a much less disadvantageous card for Democrats.
“We are fighting,” Gutierrez said on Friday. “We will continue our work and we hope the courts will give us the relief we need.”
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has asked that the lawsuit be dismissed or at least stayed until the redistribution is complete. Paxton’s office argued that the trial interpretation of Texas law is flawed and “inconsistent with past practice and judicial precedent.”
Following:Ken Paxton Calls on Judge to Block Redistribution Trial, Saying “Bad for Texas Law”
Following:Austin’s population drops by less than one million, after another decade of remarkable growth, census data shows
Republicans face fewer obstacles to the creation of gerrymandered districts in this round of redistribution. A Supreme Court ruling struck out parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that gave the US Department of Justice final approval on maps drawn in some states with a history of racist election laws.
But even with fewer constraints, there could be tension among Texas House Republicans over changes to their districts. The House is likely to see a more arduous process as the leadership struggles with the pressure and pull of creating a card that favors Republicans, appeases incumbents, and does not violate voting rights law.
With 150 members, it’s a more complicated business. While Republicans maintained control over both houses and all state offices, the federal election showed increased Democratic participation, especially in suburbs of Texas that were once considered safe areas for Republicans.
“This is where the cracking is going to happen,” Eckhardt said, referring to the layout of the constituency lines that dilute the liberal voting blocs.
Redistribution is not the only point that state lawmakers will address during the special session. Gov. Greg Abbott called on the legislature to allocate $ 16 billion in COVID-19 relief funds and pass laws limiting the participation of transgender student-athletes in school sports and banning vaccination warrants. He also wants lawmakers to pass a measure on dog restraints after vetoing one earlier this year.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick outlined his goals for the session on Friday, making property tax relief his No.1 priority. Patrick also called on lawmakers to pass a law directing state money into the unemployment insurance fund.