AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Republicans on Saturday night closed in on redrawn U.S. House maps that would shore up their eroding dominance as voters peel away from the GOP in the state’s booming suburbs.
In a key late-night vote in the Texas House, Republicans gave early sign-off to new congressional boundaries that would give them more breathing room after some close calls in 2018 and 2020, while also opening a new path for the GOP along the border with Mexico.
But in a preview of legal challenges to come, Democrats spent hours blasting the maps as discriminatory and all but blind to the state’s surging number of Latino residents, who made up more than half of the nearly 4 million new Texans over the past decade. Many live around Dallas and Houston, where under the GOP-engineered maps, there would be no new districts that give Latinos a majority.
Republican state Rep. Todd Hunter, who has presided over the redrawn maps in the House, defended the changes and said they comply with the law.
The maps will still need final negotiations in the coming days between the House and Senate before being sent to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who is expected to sign them.
The redrawn congressional districts would make make it easier for many incumbents to hold their seats, but critics say they also threaten Black and Hispanic communities’ political influence, even as those voters drive Texas’ growth. The new lines, the product of a once-in-a-decade redistricting process, create two new districts and make several less competitive for Republican lawmakers.
Texas was the only state to gain two congressional seats following the 2020 census, which showed that people of color accounted for more than 9 of 10 new residents in Texas.
“Race is clearly the factor here,” Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia said of how the maps were drawn. “Not partisanship, but rather race.”
One revision by the Texas House during hours of debate Saturday would increase the number of Hispanic voters in two districts, but those changes must still make it through another round of approval.
Democrats and voting rights advocates are preparing to challenge the maps in court in what would be yet another high-profile, high-stakes legal battle over Texas politics — already the epicenter of disputes over abortion and voting rights.