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Our Voices: New redistricting maps have Texas headed the wrong direction

By Royce West
Texas Senate

Royce West
Royce West

Memory recalls that before MapQuest, Google, Siri and other onboard navigational tools, we used road maps to help us get to where we wanted to go. Analogies could be drawn to the decennial redistricting maps approved by the Texas Legislature during the Special Session that ended last month. They too chart the direction that Republican’s partisan politics want to go. The problem is they want Texas to look more like 1930 rather than 2030. And a 21st Century Texas doesn’t look like that anymore.

2020 Census results say Texas is now a majority-minority state, a trend that to the consternation of some, will be soon true for America. Non-Hispanic Whites were 39.7 percent of Texans in Hispanics totaled 39.3 percent, with non-Hispanic Blacks at 11.8 percent. The 5.4 percent Texans of Asian descent makes it a demographic victory lap, even without “Other” races totaling 3.8 percent. But these demographic wins translated into losses in both Legislative chambers when the number of White lawmakers grew in Congress, the Texas Senate and Texas House.

Dallas/Fort Worth, despite population gains totaling more than a million, did not bring home a new member of Congress. Again, minorities are responsible for 95 percent of Texas’ population growth from 2010 to 2020. But the two new members that will grow Texas’ delegation in Congress from 36 to 38 will come from districts near Houston and Austin that most likely will vote Republican.

Maps approved for the state senate for North Texas, specifically for Dallas/Fort Worth, will look different, but not in a good way for Fort Worth’s minority communities. Under current maps, Texas Senate District 23 that I serve represents 34 percent of Dallas County residents; the same as District 16 represented by fellow Democrat, Senator Nathan Johnson. District 2 encompasses the remaining significant portion of Dallas County at 17 percent.

For the first time since the mid-2000s, there were two North Texas Democrats at my side. Midterm redistricting in 2003 cost former Senator David Cain the District 2 seat now represented by Senator Bob Hall. Tarrant County and Fort Worth have trended Democratic over several election cycles. Former State Senator Wendy Davis won election in 2008 and represented District 10 through 2016. The seat was reclaimed by Republican Konni Burton that year for one term before she was defeated by my colleague, Senator Beverly Powell in 2018.

One hundred percent (100%) of the current Senate District 10 is within Tarrant County. That ends when the new senate redistricting map goes into effect. The existing District 10 is annihilated with fragments flung from here to Waco. Just 29 percent remains in Tarrant County. District 9 grows 12 percent to contain 46 percent of Tarrant County residents. Another 17 percent are sent to District 22 that begins south of Dallas County. Five percent are taken north to Denton-based District 12. The remaining 4 percent are packed into District 23.

In the current District 10, 56.8 percent of the population is non-Anglo with 31.1 percent of its residents Hispanic, 20.7 percent Black and 43.2 percent White. The new District 10 will be 51 percent non-Anglo, with 49 percent White, 28.2 percent Hispanic and 17.7 percent Black, and spread across more rural, Brown, Callahan, Johnson, Palo Pinto, Parker, Shackelford and Stephens counties. By spreading the district across several counties, minorities in Tarrant County will no longer be able to elect their candidate of choice.

Dallas County’s Texas House districts will not change dramatically. Now, all but two Dallas County state representatives are Democrats. District 108 (Dallas) and 112 (Garland) were made slightly more Republican-leaning. Analysts say Tarrant County may lose one Republican held seat, District 92. But they will still have a countywide majority. District 92’s boundaries changed, along with those of other North Texas districts, including in Collin County, to make them more Republican-voter friendly and to create a newly-drawn district that will be based in McKinney. Regional minority population gains will not equal greater representation.

Statewide, Democrats and minorities will lose a house seat in El Paso because districts were redrawn to pit two Hispanic women against each other. Harris County critics say the Hispanic population grew enough to merit a second Hispanic majority Congressional district, matching HD 29, now held by former state senate colleague Sylvia Garcia.

To date, four lawsuits have been filed, including one led by Senator Powell. Another by Democratic State Senators Sarah Eckhardt and Roland Gutierrez claims the Texas Constitution requires redistricting to take place during a regular legislative session, not a called one. MALDEF, on behalf of nine other plaintiffs including LULAC and the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, asks for all four redistricting maps, including for the State Board of Education, to be declared in violation of the Voting Rights Act due to their dilution of Latino voting strength. And Voto Latino’s suit says both Latino and Black votes will be diluted by SB6, the redistricting bill.

More than once during Greg Abbott’s tenure as attorney general and now as governor, Texas’ laws regarding voting rights have been rejected by federal courts. Now without Section 5 pre-clearance protections and a Trump-influenced Supreme Court, minority voting rights are even more imperiled. But if we fail to protest, silence signals consent. So the fight continues. Elections have consequences!

Royce West was first elected to the Texas Senate in November 1992. He represents the 23rd Senatorial District on behalf of the citizens of Dallas County.
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