The release of Texas’ new draft for the state’s redistricting has solidified the position of incumbents and further diminished the voting power of the Hispanic and Black populations within the state. Even though the state has seen population growth since the last redistricting that supports adding more minority districts, the new map reduces districts dominated by people of color. Texas has gained two additional congressional seats based on population information gathered during the census and the population of Asian, Black, and Hispanic Texans has surpassed the growth of white Texans over the last decade. However, this increase in Texans of color is in no way reflected in the new district map and instead the redistricting has clumped together or dispersed communities of color in order to weaken the political power of those populations.
Districts on the new map illustrate the Texas legislatures’ desire to prevent districts from reflecting the racial diversity of the state. People of color account for 95 percent of Texas’ population growth over the last decade and the population of Hispanic Texans nearly matches that of white Texans, yet the new map has one less Hispanic majority district and zero districts with a Black majority. The districts’ jagged edges and slivers of space connecting distant areas reflect the lengths that the legislature has gone to to solidify Republican political power within the state, despite this being an inaccurate reflection of the needs of Texans.
San Antonio and Austin, which are approximately ninety miles apart, have been combined into one district by a small sliver only slightly wider than Interstate 35 that connects the two cities. According to the United States Census, San Antonio is 64.2 percent Hispanic and 24.7 percent white while Austin is 48.3 percent white and 33.9 percent Hispanic. Combining the two cities into one district dilutes the voting power of Hispanics and gives disproportionate power to white Republicans.
The new redistricting strengthens the political power of the Republican party across Texas and gives the GOP a locked advantage for another decade. Redistricting in Texas, as well in other states, should not allow the political party in charge to pick and choose who is worthy of having their vote count. Changing the districts is meant to account for fluctuations in population growth and density in certain areas, yet Texas’ redistricting solely reflects a hunger for complete political authority.
Democracy cannot exist and function as a productive political system if power is taken away from the people and instead lies solely in the hands of those in charge. Votes for local and federal government must count as they are cast instead of districts being designed to produce a given political outcome.
This redistricting highlights the current risk of voter disenfranchisement in Texas; however, this is far from the first instance of Texas legislature attempting to cheat voters out of their rights. Since the enactment of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Texas has failed to make it a single decade without a federal court admonishing it for violating federal protections for voters of color. Now that the Supreme Court has voted to no longer require states to have federal approval for changes to election law, Texas faces few legal obstacles for their new map. If Texas failed to adhere to protections for voters of color with federal protections in place, the future for voters of color within Texas is now even more grim.
Texas’ changes to its election laws will not only cause irreparable damage for the state, but for the country as a whole. Not only does this racist redistricting suggest to other states that they too can take advantage of a lack of federal protection for voter discrimination, it also rigs federal election results to align with the desired outcome of Texas’ legislature. During the 2020 election, 22 of Texas’s districts voted for Trump. If the new districts would have been in place during that election, an additional 3 districts would have voted for Trump and one less district would have voted for Biden. A difference like this, particularly in a state as important electorally as Texas, could easily swing an election.
Texas’ redistricting alone could also tip control of the House to Republicans. Although Texas’ influence on federal politics is somewhat warranted given their population size, the Republican Texas legislature should not be able to bypass voters and give their party control of the state and the House through redistricting. The foundation of democracy is giving all citizens power over the country’s government and maintaining checks and balances. Texas’ redistricting poses a clear and direct threat to democracy in America, and if left unchallenged, endangers the rights of voters across the country.