IssuesTexas Suburbs Likely to Gain More Representation Under New Redistricting Data

Suburban areas in Texas boomed in the past decade and should see an increase in representatives after redistricting.
August 13, 2021
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After the longest delay in modern history amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and troubles processing the numbers, the U.S. Census Bureau released the detailed data needed for states to conduct redistricting.

Initial apportionment numbers were released in April, revealing that Texas would gain two additional congressional seats.

The basic total of Texas’ official population from the census count last year — 29,145,505 — also showed what the ideal population sizes of legislative districts will be:

  • State Senate Districts: 940,178
  • Congressional Districts: 766,987
  • State House Districts: 194,303

But the data released on Thursday show more precisely where population changes occurred in Texas, giving the public some indication of where new district lines might be drawn by lawmakers.

One of the most obvious takeaways from the new data is that the suburban areas of the state — especially surrounding the metropolitan areas of Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, and the I-35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio — have boomed.

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Even out of the entire nation, Texas had six of the 10 most counties over 100,000 in population that saw the largest percent increase:

  • Hays County: 53 percent increase with a population growth of 84,000
  • Comal County: 49 percent increase with a population growth of 53,000
  • Williamson County: 44 percent increase with a population growth of 186,000
  • Kaufman County: 41 percent increase with a population growth of 42,000
  • Fort Bend County: 41 percent increase with a population growth of 237,000
  • Rockwall County: 38 percent increase with a population growth of 29,000

The next three counties in Texas that would be on that list also had substantial growth:

  • Denton County: 37 percent increase with a population growth of 244,000
  • Montgomery County: 36 percent increase with a population growth of 165,000
  • Collin County: 36 percent increase with a population growth of 282,000

While the percentage of growth in suburban counties vastly outpaced the same metric of the state’s predominantly urban areas, such urban counties still saw numerically higher growth.

The state’s most populous, Harris County, grew the most from a population in 2010 of 4.1 million to a 2020 census count of 4.7 million.

Tarrant and Bexar counties saw the next largest growth with an increase of about 300,000 each.

Notably, the population in Collin County broke 1 million and its total growth outpaced Dallas and Travis counties, with Denton and Fort Bend counties trailing not far behind.

The boom in Collin County combined with the slight stagnation in Dallas could translate to a change in the number of state House members representing each county.

Currently, Dallas County is divided between 14 House members and Collin County is represented by three plus a district that is about half in Collin and half in Rockwall County.

Based on the new population totals, the ideal number or representatives for Dallas County would be about 13.5, while the ideal number for Collin County would be 4.5 — in theory meaning that the latter county would gain a new district.

Similarly, El Paso County’s ideal number of representatives would decrease by 0.5, while the ideal target would increase by 0.7 in Denton County and 0.6 in Travis, Fort Bend, and Williamson counties.

When the redistricting process begins next month, though, House members will need to follow the “county line rule” which requires districts to be aligned with county boundaries to the extent possible.

That rule does not apply to state Senate or congressional districts, which are free to weave in and out of counties more freely.

Though the addition of two new U.S. House seats means that the congressional map will likely look much different for the midterm elections next year, state legislative maps will also be shifting to account for the rapid growth seen in suburban areas.

For instance, while Rep. Gary Gates’ (R-Rosenberg) Fort Bend County seat of House District (HD) 28 was a few thousand residents below the ideal population in 2010, it is now the district furthest from the ideal 2020 population — 53 percent higher than the target at a population of almost 300,000.

Likewise, HD 106 in Denton County, HD 70 in Collin County, HD 132 in Harris County, and HD 117 in Bexar County all exceed the ideal population by more than 40 percent.

In contrast, some of the districts that now sit substantially below the target population at more than 20 percent under include HD 68 in North Texas, HD 88 in West Texas, and El Paso County’s HD 76 and HD 77.

State Senate districts have stayed closer to the target population, with Senate District (SD) 25 along the booming Hill Country area north of San Antonio the most above the ideal by 17 percent.

SD 28 in West Texas is the furthest under the target at 15 percent below the ideal population. 

A spreadsheet of the new population totals for each county and legislative district as well as their distance from the target populations can be found here.

Additionally, the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York has compiled information in a helpful map format that can be found below.

See the full map at https://www.redistrictingandyou.org/

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Daniel Friend

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.