Senate Bill (SB) 4, the state Senate map, was approved by the upper chamber in a 20 to 11 vote.
Though amendments were considered before senators voted on SB 4, much of the discussion on the floor surrounded the changes made to Senate District (SD) 10, a Tarrant County seat currently held by Sen. Beverly Powell (D-Burleson).
Under the new map, SD 10 would shift from a district that leans slightly toward Democrats to one that leans safely toward Republicans based on the election results from 2018 and 2020.
After Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston), the chair of the Senate Redistricting Committee, laid out SB 4 on the floor, Powell had a list of questions probing how the map was drawn and Huffman’s intentions in the process.
While Huffman refused to detail any of her interactions with the attorney she consulted with, she firmly said that she believes the map is “legally compliant” and does not violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which is often used in courts as the basis for rejecting redistricting plans.
Further, Huffman reiterated that although her team looked at a number of variables in the process of redrawing the lines, including partisan considerations and major election results from the past few years, they “never had racial shading.”
At one tense point, Powell said that she had shown Huffman a map with racial shading which she initialed, suggesting that was evidence that she had seen some racial information.
However, Huffman refuted the insinuation and said that as soon as she realized Powell’s map was of racial data, she flipped it over to the blank side.
While most Republican senators rejected amendments proposed that would keep more Democratic votes in Powell’s district, other changes were made to the version.
Many changes were small shifts in lines, though one change in SD 10 could pave the way for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s preferred candidate, Rep. Phil King (R-Weatherford), to have a less competitive primary race.
Some Republicans in the region, including Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn and Congressman Jake Ellzey (R-TX-06), pushed for Rep. David Cook (R-Mansfield) to run.
However, with an amendment adopted by the Senate, nearly all of Cook’s hometown would move into a different Senate district.
One more formal vote on the legislation is needed in the Senate before it will move to the House.
Legislative chambers traditionally do not make alterations to their counterparts’ maps, but SB 4 still needs to be approved by both the House and Senate before it can be sent to the governor’s desk and be signed into law.
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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.