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Government/Politics

As contentious redistricting session continues, Texas lawmakers will debate House maps on Tuesday

 This June 1, 2021, photo shows the State Capitol in Austin, Texas.
This June 1, 2021, photo shows the State Capitol in Austin, Texas.

The Texas House of Representatives is scheduled Tuesday to debate House Bill 1, which redraws voting districts for the chamber’s 150 representatives.

The maps, passed last week by the House Committee on Redistricting, were authored by committee chair Rep. Todd Hunter (R-Corpus Christi) and will reshape how Texas House members are chosen for the next decade.

Redistricting, which takes place after each census, is the top priority agenda item for Texas lawmakers during the state’s current special legislative session. This third special session must end on or before Oct. 19 . T hat leaves lawmakers with just over a week to a pprov e sev eral new voting map s.

Texas Democrats have said all maps currently under consideration would take away representation from the state’s Black and Latino population. That’s despite the 2020 c ensus showing 95% of Texas’ population growth was fueled by people of color.

The maps Texas House members will debate on Tuesday have also raised criticism regard ing how they would disproportionately benefit Texas Republicans.

Among these members was Texas House Democrats Chair Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie) who released a statement.

“Given Texas’ well documented history of drawing intentionally discriminatory redistricting plans, it is more important than ever for leadership to treat this process with consideration and respect,” Turner wrote. “Instead, Texas Republicans are doubling down and seem hell-bent on repeating the mistakes of the past.”

Breaking down the proposed Texas House maps

As currently structured, House Bill 1 would add one Democrat-leaning seat in District 70, a part of Collin County which currently has a Republican representative, Rep. Scott Sanford (R-McKinney). Sanford is not running for reelection.

But Democrats point out many other proposed changes to district lines, backed by the GOP-majority, would divide minority populations and change key districts where Democrats are seeking reelection.

An approved change proposed by Rep. Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond) to Bell County in Killen, a city with a 40 % Black population, which Democrats claim would divide residents.

Democrats, like Rep. Rafael Anchía (D-Dallas), attempted to amend Hunter's proposed map, increasing the proposed number of majority-Latino districts. That amendment failed on a party-line vote.

City representatives, like El Paso District 2 Representative Alexsandra Annello, who testified during redistricting committee hearings last Monday, Oct. 4, aren't satisfied with the maps going before the chamber.

“It's really hard, cause there's a lot of change. We've known for a while that there was going to be some change in the border, right from El Paso to the valley and it's disappointing that majority-minority communities throughout the state are going to be impacted negatively,” An nello said.

El Paso is losing one seat in the state House in the proposed map, and An nello doesn’t believe that it fairly represents her community.

“People keep saying these are what the numbers are, but as someone who was really involved in the census on the city level, who fought very hard for funding for the census, the state wasn't there for us as communities when it came to getting these numbers , " Annell o said . " N ow we're having to deal with the repercussions of that, so it's just frustrating to hear constantly, the numbers aren't there.”

Members of the public looking to watch House lawmakers debate these proposed maps on Tuesday can tune into live hearings here.

Got a tip? Have a suggestion for our redistricting glossary? Email Haya Panjwani at hpanjwani@kera.org. Follow Haya on Twitter @hayapanjw.

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Copyright 2021 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.