According to Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), the chair of the Senate Special Committee on Redistricting, members of the current Republican delegation led by Congressman Michael McCaul (R-TX-10) brought a proposed map to her office via an attorney, Chris Gober.
Huffman took the proposal and adjusted it to meet various criteria that she was considering.
She says that the map was drawn “blind to race” by both the delegation and herself, and believes that the map is legal under the federal Voting Rights Act.
As originally proposed by Huffman, the legislation would add a new Democrat-leaning district in Travis County, a new Republican-leaning district in Harris County, and shore up support for most incumbents.
One seat, Texas’ 15th Congressional District (TX-15), would shift toward Republicans. Under the proposal, the median share of the vote for Republican candidates against Democrats in the district during 2020 would have been 50.4 percent. In 2018, that number would have only been 44.6 percent.
A floor amendment from Sen. Chuy Hinojosa (D-McAllen) would have shifted the partisan leaning back toward Democrats while also making TX-34 more competitive, which would become more Democratic under Huffman’s bill.
However, Huffman was not agreeable to the amendment, saying that it could create increased litigation risks. The amendment would have also affected a neighboring district belonging to a Republican incumbent, Rep. Michael Cloud (R-TX-27).
Aside from the broader criticism that the new map does not create enough majority-minority districts given the rapid growth of minority populations in Texas over the past decade, a couple of other notable complaints arose from Democrats.
Democratic senators representing El Paso and San Antonio expressed dissatisfaction that the military installations of Fort Bliss and Lackland Air Force Base were shifted into a single district belonging to Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23).
They argued that the respective bases should stay in a district where they have historically been located, but Huffman contended that it is appropriate to shift them to Gonzales since he is a veteran and is a member on the subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee that steers funding toward military bases.
Amendments to shift either base out of his district were voted down.
Another issue that has been at the forefront of criticism is the pairing of Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX-18) and Al Green (D-TX-09).
Though candidates for Congress are not required to live within the boundaries of the district they seek election to, Democrats from Harris County have been adamantly opposed to the changes that take Jackson Lee out of TX-18.
An amendment from Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston) would have shifted some Democrat-held districts around to put Jackson Lee back into TX-18, but Huffman objected to it, noting that it would decrease the Black Voting Age Population from 35.9 percent to 33 percent.
Miles’ amendment was voted down.
Alternatively, Huffman proposed an amendment that would place Jackson Lee back in TX-18 while keeping the demographic percentages roughly the same. However, Huffman said that Democrats told her they did not approve of it and ultimately withdrew the amendment.
Now that the map, Senate Bill (SB) 6, has been approved by the Senate, it will be sent to the House for further consideration. It must be heard in committee there before it can move to the full chamber for a vote.
If any changes are made to the map by the House, the Senate must either concur or request a conference committee to work out the difference.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.