Experts explain how redistricting can affect diverse Texas communities

Local News

The Texas Tribune

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The new U.S. Census Data that dropped last week confirmed what most suspected: Texas is growing and the growth is sparked by young people of color.

Census data reports that the U.S. became more diverse over the last decade, as well as more urban, which has nuanced implications for both contemporary American identities and redistricting. 

For example, the data shows that the number of non-Hispanic White people in the country was reduced by about 5 million people, dropping from 63.7 percent of the population to 57.8 percent.

“This is the first census in over 100 years that the White population actually shrank relative to the other populations,” Joaquin Gonzalez, staff attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, told KTSM 9 News. “So I think across the country, we’re just seeing a really diversifying electorate and diversifying population.”

Demographers say that it’s not so much that the White population shrank, but that shifts in attitudes are leading to folks identifying as multiracial more often than in the past. 

He said that 95 percent of the population growth in Texas over the last 10 years is due to Latino and Asian communities in the state.

“Texas is going to get two new Congressional districts this decade and it’s entirely because of that population growth,” Gonzalez said.

Census data functions as the cornerstone to redrawing the 429 districts in 44 U.S. states and 7,383 state legislative districts. Ideally, each district would have about the same number of people, but politicians often work behind the scenes to manipulate the maps.

“Texas has a really long history of illegal gerrymandering,” said Gonzalez. “Every decade since the 1960s, courts have found that either the state violated the Voting Rights Act or the U.S. Constitution by racially discriminating.”

The state GOP says it’s too soon to make safeguards for undrawn districts but is being mindful of regions that experienced population growth.

“I think we’re going to leave that to see how redistricting plays out. I think it’s just important to pay attention to where the majority of Hispanics are,” said Macarena Martinez, Texas Communications director for the Republican National Committee.

The GOP will have total control over the redistricting process in Texas, with Republicans holding 23 of the 36 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Civil rights advocates are concerned over the fidelity of access to the vote that Texas voters of color will have after the next round of redistricting occurs.

“Redistricting is one of the most important issues because it determines who’s in power for the whole next decade,” Gonzalez said. “This determines how people are elected, and what we’ve seen in the past is that the legislators are choosing their voters, instead of drawing fair districts where voters choose their legislators.”

Public hearings will likely begin in September, where Texas residents may testify (in-person or virtually) about redrawing district maps.

“If history is any indicator — unfortunately — the state legislature may — again — try to racially gerrymander and dilute the power of these groups that really accounted for the new growth in Texas and the new congressional districts,” said Gonzalez. 

To learn more about redistricting in Texas, click here.

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