Memo: Regarding the Release of 2020 Census Block Data and Redistricting

The release of the Census Bureau’s 2020 data showing the growth & ethnicity of the Texas population sounds the bell for redistricting.
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Memorandum 

To:      Texas Media and other interested parties
From:  Matt Angle, Lone Star Project Founder and Director
Re:       Release of U.S. Census Block-level Data and Redistricting
Date:    August 12, 2021

The release of the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2020 block-level data showing the growth & ethnicity of the Texas population sounds the bell for redistricting – the primary tool that Texas Republicans have used to hold power by undermining & discriminating against Hispanic and Black Texans. 

The Lone Star Project – working in support of the Texas Justice and Education Fund and with other allies committed to protecting voting rights – will be deeply engaged in the legal effort to block Texas Republican plans to illegitimately hold power by suppressing minority voters and denying basic voting rights to millions of Hispanic, Black, Asian, and other minority Texans.  It is a battle that must be engaged and can be won.  Under the current map, there are Congressional, State Senate and State House districts created or preserved where minority voters elect their candidate of choice ONLY because of the legal battle waged.  And, this effort could get a major boost in the weeks ahead if Congress adopts the John Lewis Voting Rights Restoration Act.

Here are important points to keep in mind in the weeks ahead as the redistricting battle is fully engaged:

  • Before the detailed data was delivered, we knew that Texas residents were undercounted. Greg Abbott, Dan Patrick, and all other Texas Republican leaders refused to do what leaders of both parties in many other states did – invest in local complete count programs to assure that all Texans are included in our state’s total.  Abbott and the others cost Texas at least one congressional seat – holding the gain to only 2 instead of the expected 3 or 4. 

 

  • Even with an undercount, however, we now know officially that Hispanic, Black, & Asian population growth is dramatically outpacing Anglos.  The ONLY reason Texas is gaining new seats is minority population growth.

 

  • Also, as expected the areas with the greatest population increases are the DFW metroplex, Austin/San Antonio, and the Houston region.  But, since there are only 2 new seats, one of these regions will be cut out of getting the additional congressional representation warranted.

 

  • Expect Abbott and Texas Republican leaders to ignore the fact that Hispanics, Blacks & Asians are driving Texas population growth. They will likely do as they’ve done since Tom DeLay’s infamous mid-decade redistricting in 2003 and systematically undermine minority Texans by packing & cracking Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians in order to benefit Anglo Republicans.

 

  • Keep in mind that all three of the maps adopted by the Republican controlled legislature in 2011 – with Greg Abbott leading them as Attorney General – were ruled by federal courts to be drawn with discriminatory intent in violation of the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act. 

 

  • Look for a repeat of the cynical and discriminatory approach taken in 2011 when Texas gained 3 new congressional seats due to minority growth, but Texas Republicans adopted a congressional map that gave Anglo Republicans control of four additional districts.  It took a federal court order to get it changed and that resulted in 2 of the districts being more fairly drawn.

 

  • Expect Abbott, Patrick, and Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan to take the same approach in 2021 – and expect them to be dishonest about it.  For example, they may say they are creating new Hispanic seats BUT they will likely just switch district numbers to make it appear the seats are “new” or they will try to replace existing districts where minority voters already elect their candidate of choice.

 

  • Keep in mind also that there are no “Republican Hispanic Districts.”  Republicans may configure districts that have a majority Hispanic population but – due to disproportionate Anglo turnout – these districts will really be controlled by Anglo R voters.  Congressional District 23 in the current map is an example.  Congressman Tony Gonzales lost the Hispanic vote in 2020 and won election only due to overwhelming support from Anglo Republican voters.

 

  • Here are three numbers to remember – 15, 13, and 67.

 

  • Under the current congressional map, all incumbent Democrats are the candidate of choice of minority voters, and minority voters are the strongest voice within their districts. Since Texas is gaining two more seats ONLY due to minority growth, both should allow minority voters to elect their candidate of choice.  So, any congressional map with fewer than 15 districts controlled by minority voters will likely constitute discriminatory retrogression.

 

  • Same point holds for the State Senate and State House maps.  Under both current maps, in districts now held by Democrats, minority voters elect their candidate of choice – 13 in State Senate and 67 in the State House.  Any Senate map with fewer than 13 districts in which minority voters elect their candidate of choice and any House map with fewer than 67 districts where minority voters elect their candidate of choice will be discriminatory.

 

  • None of this information is obscure.  It is all available to the Republican map drawers. But, Abbott and other Texas Republican leaders made the cynical decision long ago to abandon any sincere effort to win over new minority voters and, instead, have repeatedly engaged in racial gerrymandering and other discriminatory actions intended to suppress and undermine Black and Hispanic voters in Texas.  It is key to their staying in power, so don’t expect anything different this cycle.

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