Additional Congressional Seats Give Republican State Leaders the Chance to do the Right Thing. Will they take it?
The U.S. Census Bureau just confirmed that Texas gets two and not three additional congressional seats as was widely expected. The failure to get a third seat can be laid directly at the feet of Greg Abbott and Texas Republicans who failed to promote the census and left our state undercounted.
The two-seat gain, though, makes the growth of Texas’ minority population even more important. Trends over the past decade show Hispanic, African American, and other minority populations growing far faster than Anglos. In fact, if Texas overall had grown at only the rate of its Anglo population, we would have lost one or more seats rather than gain any.
Republicans can draw a legal map – If they want to do so.
The two new seats give Greg Abbott and the Republican legislative leaders an extraordinary chance to do the right thing – for themselves and for Latino, Black and all minority Texans who are underrepresented in the congressional delegation. Here’s how:
Republicans already hold 23 of 36 Texas seats, which at 64% is far greater than their vote share in statewide elections. Greg Abbott averaged 58% in his two elections as Governor. Trump averaged 54% in his two races. Together Ted Cruz in 2018 and John Cornyn in 2020 averaged 53%.
All 13 of the congressional districts Democrats currently hold in Texas have majority minority populations and are likely protected under the Voting Rights Act – especially if the John Lewis Voting Rights Renewal Act is adopted by Congress and Texas maps are required to undergo preclearance review.
If Republicans retain all thirteen of the current Democratic-held districts as effective minority opportunity districts and then draw the two new districts as additional minority opportunity seats, they will almost certainly avoid any serious legal challenges to their map based on voting rights violations. At the same time, Republicans can shore up several of the marginal seats they now hold, making them secure going forward. The result will be a 23 Republican and 15 Democrat map, which gives Republicans 60.5% of the districts – a significantly higher percentage than their average vote share in recent top-of-the-ballot races.
Will the Texas GOP Instinct to Discriminate and Suppress Win Out?
After the 2010 census, when Texas picked up four new seats, Republicans had a similar opportunity. They didn’t take it. Instead, they engaged in extreme racial gerrymandering, producing a tortured map that gave all four new districts to Republicans while packing and cracking Black and Latino neighborhoods in every part of our state. Later court rulings found their actions to be intentionally discriminatory and partially – but only partially – repaired some of the damage.
Minority population growth and reapportionment have again given Greg Abbott and the Republicans controlling the legislature the chance to do the right thing. Republicans can be expected to draw a map that favors their party. Texans should not accept, however, that Republicans collapse to political greed and racial hostility by engaging in intentional discrimination that violates our voting rights.