After a federal court threw out Texas Republicans’ redistricting map this month because it discriminated against minorities, a three-judge panel today released a new map that will significantly boost minority representation in Congress.
Though the Republican-controlled Texas legislature was originally tasked with drawing the state’s new congressional districts, the map they produced was not only highly-partisan, but discriminated against the state’s burgeoning minority population. Texas, which is one of a handful of states that must get federal approval under the Voting Rights Act for new redistricting maps, saw its proposal nixed by the District Court of DC two weeks ago. As a result, three federal judges in San Antonio were charged with creating a new map for next year’s elections.
Their proposal today is far more equitable for Texas’ growing minority population, particularly Latinos. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund praised the new plan, calling it an “important victory for Latinos in Texas.” It creates a new “Latino opportunity district” in South Texas (TX-35) where Latino voters won’t be disenfranchised or split up, but rather enabled to elect a candidate of their choosing. In total, four new districts will boost minority representation.
Given the Texas’ Latino surge, it’s no surprise that the original map was thrown out in favor one that was fairer to minorities. Over the past decade, two-thirds of Texas’ population growth has been Latinos, while blacks accounted for another 22 percent. Whites increased by just four percent since 2000.
This population boom earned Texas four new congressional seats, the largest gain of any state. Currently, Republicans enjoy a 23-9 advantage among Texas’ 32 seats, but redistricting analyst Charles Kuffner did a thorough examination of the new districts and predicted that after the dust settles next year, Democrats would gain four seats. The Houston Chronicle, meanwhile, predicted a possible three-seat pickup for Democrats.
Interested parties have until Friday to comment on the court’s proposed map. Kuffner predicts the map “will be finalized by Monday the 28th, which is the opening of filing season, though I hear that could possibly get pushed back a day.”