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With new political maps like these, it would have been surprising that the US Department of Justice decided not to prosecute the state of Texas.
Texas is home to about 8.3 million more people than it was at the turn of the century, according to the US Census Bureau – and 7.6 million of those new residents are people of color. This means that the state has an almost equal number of Latino and White residents (39.3% and 39.8%, respectively), according to the 2020 census. Black residents made up 11.8% of the population of the State, Asian residents about 5.4%.
You wouldn’t know from looking at the new maps drawn for representation in the state’s congressional delegation or its legislature. In 65% of congressional districts, White Texans are in the majority; Hispanic residents are the majority in 18.4% of these districts.
Roughly equal in population, unequal in representation.
Here’s how the DOJ put it in the federal lawsuit the agency filed this week: “The legislature has refused to recognize the state’s growing minority electorate.
Courts have disapproved of maps that go the wrong way, driving neighborhoods with historically minority populations away. The Texas Cards arguably do this in two ways, and critics make those arguments.
The DOJ lawsuit points to the 23rd Congressional District which stretches from San Antonio to El Paso and encompasses most of the state’s international border. As it tried to do 10 years ago, the federal government claims that “Texas has made District 23 a lesser electoral opportunity for preferred minority candidates by consciously replacing many of the district’s active Latino voters with citizens. Latinos with low turnout, with the aim of strengthening the voting power of Anglo-Saxon citizens while preserving the superficial appearance of Latino control.
A second way to diminish the power of voter groups is to ignore their growth, leaving a map drawn for a snapshot of the population of Texas in place when that population has changed dramatically.
Since the turn of the century, an additional 8.3 million people have lived in Texas. What was a state with 20.9 million inhabitants in 2000 is now a state with 29.1 million, according to the census. In the first 10 years of the century, according to the 2010 census, 89% of the 4.3 million new Texans were people of color. In the second, 95% of the growth was attributable to people of color.
In those two decades, for every 10 more Hispanics, Blacks, Asians, and other colored Texans, there was one more White Texan.
This is the first time in decades that Texas has not had to seek federal approval for its cards before implementing them. This “preclearance” requirement was overturned by a 2013 United States Supreme Court ruling that places like Texas that had a history of racial discrimination in their electoral and electoral laws and practices would no longer automatically be subject to election. federal approval.
The maps drawn this year are the first overhauls of the state’s political districts since that decision. The federal government’s lawsuit against the state argues that Texas hasn’t changed its ways – that state lawmakers have discriminated on the basis of race in designing the new maps. Without this inherent preclearance barrier, federal attorneys who had a say in Texas election law changes must now go to court. Their objections this year come in the form of a lawsuit, but they mirror DOJ’s objections of past years against the maps drawn by Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Texas.
Demographically, Texas is not the same state it was 20 years ago. The population grew by almost 40% during this period. But voting power, thanks in large part to the fervent efforts of the state legislature, has not kept pace.
State conservatism has been relatively constant; Texas has been strongly Republican in its voting habits throughout this time, including in non-redistributed statewide elections. It is not about which party people prefer, but whether cards are drawn to favor particular groups on the basis of race.
It’s hard to deny the numbers.
Senate Redistribution Chair Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said the cartographers were “blind to race” – that they did not draw the maps based on racial or ethnic differences.
The intention does not matter. If racial disparity was the result – whether or not lawmakers thought about race when they made the cards – then those cards are not legal.
Even before the lawsuits started pouring in, the differences between what the census found and what the politicians put on paper were huge. And now it all goes to court, where federal judges will say whether Texas was fair and legal when it distributed political power among its citizens.