A congressional map that puts two new U.S. House of Representative seats in the Austin and Houston areas is headed to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for approval.
The two seats were allocated to Texas following the 2020 census, increasing the state’s number of representatives in the U.S. House to 38 from 36. Tarrant County was among the fastest growing in the country in the past decade and experts had speculated North Texas could be in the mix for one of the new seats.
However, when draft maps were released the districts were drawn in the Harris and Travis County areas.
“Republicans didn’t ask themselves, ‘Where was most of the new population growth? Let’s put the districts there,’“ said SMU political science professor Cal Jillson. “They asked themselves, where can we put the new districts that will allow us to create the greatest number of Republican-leaning U.S. House districts statewide.”
Census figures released in August showed Tarrant County gaining about 301,600 new residents over the past decade, the fifth most of all U.S. counties. Harris County gained the most new residents, Bexar County the sixth most and Travis County the ninth most.
The new map creates 25 districts that would have elected the Republican candidate in the 2020 presidential and U.S. Senate races, election data from the Texas Legislative Council shows. Under the current boundaries, 22 districts elected President Donald Trump, a Republican, and 23 elected Republican U.S. Sen. John Cornyn.
Congressional District 37 in central Texas would have elected MJ Hegar, a Democrat, in the November general election. Congressional District 38 in Harris County would have elected Cornyn. In Tarrant County, five of seven congressional districts would have elected Cornyn over Hegar.
The compromise version of the congressional map was filed Sunday night after the Senate didn’t agree to an amended proposal that passed out of the House. A conference committee composed of members from both chambers was formed to draft the latest version that’s headed to Abbott.
The House and Senate approved the conference committee version of the map late Monday.
“What we’re doing in passing this congressional map is a disservice to the people of Texas,” said Dallas Democrat Rep. Rafael Anchía, adding that the map “blatantly ignores the growth in this state.”
Tarrant County will technically be represented by seven lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives compared with six currently. That said, the portion of Republican U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess’ House District 26 that falls within Tarrant County doesn’t include any residents compared to the more than 175,000 people who live in Tarrant County’s part of the district now.
The new boundaries include a small portion of Congressional District 30 represented by Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat, in the county’s eastern edge. The district now falls entirely in Dallas County.
The congressional map, as well as maps for the Texas House, Senate and State Board of Education that were sent to Abbott on Friday, are already subjects of litigation. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) on Monday filed a lawsuit in federal district court arguing that the proposals violate the federal Voting Rights Act and dilute the strength of Latino voters.
The lawsuit that names Abbott and Deputy Secretary of State Jose Esparza as defendants asks the court to toss out the maps.
Five of Tarrant County’s seven districts have total populations that are majority Anglo, one has a population that’s majority Black and one has a population where Hispanic residents make up the majority.
In the past decade, people of color accounted for 95% of Texas’ population growth, according to the Texas Tribune. But, under the map headed to Abbott, seven of the 38 congressional districts have a majority Latino citizen voting age population, compared with eight districts currently, the lawsuit reads.
The lawsuit was filed by MALDEF and other plaintiffs before the congressional map was approved by the House and Senate.
“The new redistricting plans are an unlawful attempt to thwart the changing Texas electorate and should be struck down,” said Nina Perales, the group’s vice president of litigation.