Texas releases draft map amid redistricting rush among states

In Oregon, state lawmakers gave their map final approval

Redistricting in Texas is controlled by the state’s Republican-led Legislature. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images file photo)
Redistricting in Texas is controlled by the state’s Republican-led Legislature. (Sergio Flores/Getty Images file photo)
Posted September 27, 2021 at 6:15pm

Texas lawmakers unveiled a draft of their much-anticipated congressional map Monday, as legislatures across the country continue to finalize the landscape for the 2022 midterm elections.

Texas, the only state to gain two seats this reapportionment cycle, would add seats in the Houston and Austin areas. The Republican-controlled legislature could be one of the first to finalize its map in its special session in the next few weeks. The state’s current House delegation comprises 23 Republicans and 13 Democrats.

Michael Li, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, said that under the draft map, Republicans were not as aggressive as they could have been, but it would likely take several competitive seats off the table for Democrats. He pointed out that the map did not create more “minority opportunity” districts in places that experienced substantial growth over the decade.

“The Dallas-Fort Worth area could easily support three, and some would even argue four, opportunity districts, but they set Latino voters back quite a bit when they aggressively redrew these lines,” Li said.

A congressional campaign aide for a Texas Democrat expressed surprise the new seats didn’t reach areas of north Texas that grew substantially over the decade. The aide said the map “is really about incumbent protection from what I can tell.”

Li said that, nationally, many partisan mapmakers are looking to drag out any advantage they can.

“People are turning over the cushions on the couch looking for change wherever they can find it,” he said.

Georgia legislators also unveiled their own map Monday, the first step in the process controlled by the GOP-led state legislature.

In Oregon, the Democratic-controlled state House and Senate approved a new congressional map in party-line votes Monday, sending the plan to the Democratic governor for her signature. The map would create a new seat in the Portland area — giving Democrats three “safe” seats, with two seats in competitive areas and one in Republican territory, according to an analysis by the Campaign Legal Center’s Planscore tool.

The GOP-leaning seat would cover most of the eastern portion of Oregon, an area that Republican Greg Walden represented in Congress until retiring last cycle. Monday’s votes came after statehouse Republicans over the weekend denied Democrats a quorum to pass the maps.

Walden noted that if Republicans had allowed a state-mandated deadline to approve maps to pass Monday, the Democratic secretary of state would have controlled the legislative redistricting process.

“You’re rolling the dice. Is the negotiated map that came over from the Senate better than the unknown map the secretary of state could draw?” Walden said in an interview. “They have it within their capability to take the plan and make matters even worse.”

Li pointed out that states such as North Carolina may also release maps in the next few weeks.

“This is just the early winds of a hurricane that is about to get much worse,” he said.