In a new article, the Editorial Board of the Houston Chronicle put Republican officials in Texas on blast for drawing district lines to block out representation of Democrats and marginalized voters, such as those in Latino communities. On the state level, officials have passed maps that hand two new U.S. House districts to white majorities, despite the fact that almost all of the population growth that meant Texas would obtain those districts came from non-white residents.
The Chronicle was also concerned, though, with redistricting in Galveston County, where “new maps redrew Precinct 3, served by Commissioner Stephen Holmes since 1999,” as the paper explained it. Holmes is a Democrat, and the new map makes Democratic control of his district significantly more difficult to obtain. As recapped by the Chronicle: “The current configuration includes parts of Galveston, La Marque, Texas City, Galveston and Dickinson; the Republican majority shifted the Galveston County lines to add parts of the much whiter and more conservative League City and Friendswood.”
Breaking: Justice Department files suit challenging extreme gerrymandered Texas redistricting maps
— Ari Berman (@AriBerman) December 6, 2021
The previous district lines left Holmes’s district with a majority of non-white residents, but — perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the Republican legacy of discrimination — the new lines change that, putting white voters in the majority. Previously, Holmes has been the only Democrat on the county board where he serves (which in Texas is known as a County Court). The Chronicle notes that there’s a major difference this time around in the Galveston County redistricting process — local officials are no longer required to submit plans to federal authorities for pre-approval, because of a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court decision undermining the portion of the Voting Rights Act that required such pre-approval for certain changes to the electoral process.
NEW: The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against Texas for redrawing electoral maps to minimize the voting rights of minority citizens.
— ACLU of Texas (@ACLUTx) December 6, 2021
As the Chronicle put it:
‘Both parties in Congress promised to restore Section 5 [of the Voting Rights Act] after the 2013 decision, but have failed to do so. And now, in Galveston and elsewhere, including Austin where lawmakers redrew legislative districts without any apparent regard for the booming Latino population in the state, we’re now seeing the full and devastating effects of that decision — and of Congress’s failure to act… [Voting rights-related lawsuits], as painful and protracted as they may be, are one of the few remedies left in the face of continuing assaults on voting rights.’
Has any statement ever meant less?👇
"Texas GOP leaders have previously said the redrawn maps were approved by lawyers who determined that the districts complied with voting laws."https://t.co/iqV7rEkhNT
— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) December 6, 2021
As for solutions, the paper suggested the establishment of non-partisan bodies to handle redistricting, adding as follows:
‘At the risk of being naive, we also believe voters speaking out against assaults on voting rights will eventually have an impact. Some politicians appear to be listening to such concerns… [Trusting] in officials to do the right thing shouldn’t be necessary. Congress must add teeth back to the [Voting Rights Act], and Texans must demand legislators look to other states where redistricting reforms have worked to make redrawing legislative maps every decade a fairer, simpler and democratic process.’
Read more from the Chronicle on the redistricting process at this link.
“As if brutal tactics of voter suppression were not sufficiently autocratic, North Carolina—along with states such as Georgia and Texas—is also redistricting its electoral maps to weaken the power of the Black electorate.”https://t.co/KeaVurJSi8
— Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II (@RevDrBarber) December 7, 2021