New Texas Congressional map criticized in committee hearing

The Texas House Redistricting Committee Wednesday did not present its own proposal for a new Texas congressional map. Instead, only the Senate version, C2135, was considered. 

This version of the map includes two new districts, giving Texas 38 congressional districts because of the increase in population. However, many of those who testified claim the Republican majority has drawn new voting lines in order to dilute the voting strength of minority groups.

"It really doesn't seem logical, you have districts that stretch all the way from the panhandle of Texas all the way into Denton," said Cyrus Reed with the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter.

A big reason for the squeeze is Travis and Harris counties, which received two new congressional districts as a result of the census. Doing that, according to San Antonio resident Gina Castenada, has hurt her neighbor. "So that area in its self is pretty shredded," she said.

Castenada testified one part of her neighborhood is in a district that goes to El Paso. Neighbors across the street would be in a district that includes Austin, and others not far away are in a district that stretches to Laredo.

"Can we elect someone from our southside area of Bexar County in San Antonio? Never," said Castenada.

Voting maps that look like a bowl of spaghetti cooked up in the Capitol grill are nothing new. The same complaint was made 10 years ago and Republicans argue the maps are not products of political gerrymandering.

"People look at some of the funny lines and many of those are caused by the requirement we have to protect minority-majority Districts, and so as the lines go down and pick up minorities in various areas, that means all of the other districts have to be drawn around them and it's assumed it’s for nefarious reasons when it’s really not, it’s a requirement," said state Rep Valoree Swanson (R-Spring).

U.S. Rep Al Green (D-Houston) returned to Austin to urge House members to amend the map. "There was no need to have major surgery performed on the 9th and 18th Congressional districts," he said.

If the Texas Senate map is approved, Green would have to run for re-election against fellow U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Houston), as her home address was moved into his district.

"We are the only two to be pitted against each other, of African ancestry, so you could have multiple reasons as to why this has taken place, but it’s not enough for things to be right, they must also look right, and even if this the right thing to do, in their minds, it doesn't look right to the public and I don’t think it will look right to the courts," said Rep. Green.

Some Democrats, like state Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City), want a do-over in another special session. "This only happens every 10 years, after census, we have to get right, we shouldn't rush through this process because, oh,  we are behind, we should take the time in the 4th Legislative session so we can get it done right," he said.

The committee is expected to vote the Congressional map out. It could come up for debate in the House chamber on Friday.

Texas House passes proposed new map for chamber’s 150 districts
Senate approves map cementing GOP dominance in upper chamber, dividing up Tarrant county’s voters of color
Texas Democrats unhappy with Republicans first redistricting draft
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