October 15, 2021 11:02 pm
Texas GOP tries to protect US House seats under new maps

Texas GOP tries to protect US House seats under new maps

AUSTIN (AP) — Texas Republicans propose redrawn congressional maps Monday to strengthen their slipping dominance, strengthen their nearly two dozen U.S. House representatives, and add new districts in booming Austin, Houston.

Texas was the big winner in the 2020 Census, as torrid growth fueled by nearly 2 million new Hispanic residents made it the only state awarded two additional congressional seats, bringing its total to 38.

These demographic shifts threaten decades worth of Republican control in Texas. However, GOP’s first draft clearly shows that they are attempting to draw new voting maps. While GOP mapmakers have drawn two additional congressional seats, the state of Texas is now . One exception is along the Texas-Mexico border, where — encouraged by former President Donald Trump’s strong showing in 2020 — Republicans could make it harder for Democrats to hang onto a longtime stronghold currently held by Rep. Vicente Gonzalez.

Latino advocates believed that the numbers required at least one new Latino-majority Congress seat in Texas. However, none of these seats were included in the Republicans first pass.

Booming suburban districts in Texas, which include four of the 10 fastest-growing and rapidly diversifying cities in the U.S., would be fortified with more voters pulled from surrounding rural areas.

Republicans currently have 23 House seats in Texas, while Democrats have 13.

Also Monday, some state Senate Republicans in Georgia released a proposed map that could shift one of Georgia’s 14 congressional seats from Democrats to Republicans. Republicans now hold an 8-6 majority of the seats, down from 10-4 after 2010. This proposal seems to increase the GOP’s chances of winning a suburban Atlanta district currently held by Democrat Lucy McBath. The plan, which includes McBath’s 6th District changes, would make the 7th District in suburban Atlanta much safer for Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux. Georgia’s state House members will present their proposals, and both chambers must reach an agreement when redistricting sessions begin Nov. 3.

The maps are the product of Texas and Georgia Republicans wielding a newly freer hand to reengineer political boundaries: For the first time in more than 50 years, some states are starting the redistricting process without federal oversight. A Supreme Court ruling in 2013 removed mandatory federal approval of new maps for Texas, Georgia and all or parts of 14 other states with a history of discrimination in voting.

The redrawn Texas district maps that Republican mapmakers have unveiled are only starting points. They will likely be modified in the weeks ahead of being sent to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott signed off.

Republicans from America’s largest red state are looking to increase their political advantage, as their traditionally dominant victories in Texas have dwindled. Last year, Trump carried Ohio by a wider margin than Texas, and Republicans got a scare in 2018 when Democrats flipped a dozen statehouse seats and Beto O’Rourke nearly ousted Sen. Ted Cruz.

But Republicans held their ground in Texas in 2020, emboldening them to mount an aggressive agenda of hot-button conservative policymaking, and gains along the predominately Hispanic southern border have spurred the GOP into trying to expand their reach.

In every decade since the passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965, courts or the Department of Justice have ruled that Texas’ redistricting plans violated federal laws — partly by scattering Democratic-leaning Latino voters among multiple districts dominated by non-Latino white residents who lean Republican.

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AP writer Jeff Amy contributed from Atlanta.