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Razor-thin GOP Majority in Congress Relies on 4 ‘Extra’ Seats from Texas Scam

WASHINGTON. When the new Congress opens on Tuesday, two-thirds of Texans who take the oath will be Republicans.

Texas is a red state. But not as red.

Compared to their share of the electorate, Republicans should have gotten Texas 21 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, not 25. And, as it turned out, a tiny majority of the Republican Party depended on the success of the latest in a decade of machinations.

Without those four additional seats from Texas, the Republicans would control the House of Representatives by one vote. And GOP leader Kevin McCarthy’s rocky bid to secure the speakership, which is being resisted by a group of conservatives, including Austin Rep. Chip Roy, will be even more difficult.

“There is no doubt that fraud exists and that it has benefited Republicans at large across the country,” said Michael Lee, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Justice Center.

Explosive growth over the past decade has earned Texas two additional seats in the House of Representatives since the 2020 Census. The Republicans won 25 of those 38 seats.

This is 66%.

Statewide, Republican candidates have averaged 55% over the past decade. This corresponds to 21 places out of 38.

The GOP-controlled Legislature cut Texas with surgical precision to draw such a map. As art, the districts are a whimsical collection of fire-breathing dragons, lightning bolts, and doodles.

Ties that Bind: The Tiny Strips That Make Up the Fraudulent Map of Texas Congress

As a party policy, it was a brilliant application of methods that both sides had used for decades, gathering supporters of the other side in some areas and dissolving them in others.

The purple suburbs of Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, and Houston were paired with deep red rural areas.

Across the country, the red wave Republicans expected in the interim did not materialize.

They won only nine seats in the House. They regained power, but it was a very disappointing result given the weak economy, high gas prices, Joe Biden’s low approval ratings, and the party’s history of bullying in the White House in the middle of a presidential term.

The Republicans will control the House by a margin of 222 to 213. Without those four “extra” seats from Texas, the Republicans would have fallen to 218 and the Democrats would have 217. That’s about as low as it gets.

Exact proportionality is not possible in a system that includes geographic areas. To this end, elections must be held in a parliamentary style, with each party assigned seats according to its share of the total vote. It’s not American.

Still, according to Li, “it’s a useful measure” to judge the fairness of a particular card – “a good calculation of the back of the envelope.”

How disproportionate was the GOP’s 25-seat exit in Texas?

Donald Trump received 52% of the vote in 2000. Senator John Cornyn won 53.5%.

Two years earlier, Senator Ted Cruz had won 50.9%.

Gov. Greg Abbott lost just under 55% in November as fellow Republicans outperformed 56% in races for land, agriculture and railroad commissioner.

Average: 55%.

The Congressional map is not the only map the Legislature has used for the benefit of the Republicans.

The Republican Party will run the State Board of Education 10-5 – also two-thirds of the control.

The Republican Party holds 19 of 31 seats in the Texas Senate – 61% and two “extra” seats.

The split in the Texas House is much closer to the base: 86 Republicans out of 150 seats, or 57%. (That’s just three places more than it would have been at 55%.)

None of this is illegal. Democrats in Congress tried to achieve this, but in January they could not get past the Senate obstructionist Republican. The Brennan Center’s analysis identified Texas as one of nine states whose new congressional maps were so skewed they would have violated the bill. Republicans have drawn maps in five of those states.

In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled 5–4 that partisan-motivated fraud is not unconstitutional, unlike fraud aimed at suppressing a racial or ethnic minority.

According to Lee, this is an artificial distinction.

“If you can picture him as a guerrilla, he will get out of prison, but not if he gets into the racial bucket,” he said.

Republicans don’t have a monopoly on fraud. But in 2022, they had the distinct advantage of being in control of the large, diverse suburban states of Texas, Georgia, and Florida, where they could shape the playing field and win seats at a much higher rate than they receive votes.

Lee pointed to Wisconsin, where Democrats make up about half of the electorate but hold only three of the 10 seats in the legislature.

Ticket splitting has been widespread recently in Georgia, where GOP Gov. Brian Kemp won re-election with 53% of the vote over Democrat Stacey Abrams, and Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock won 51% in the runoff against former Dallas cowboy Herschel Walker.

In such a state, it is difficult to say for sure what the “fair” ratio of seats in Congress will be.

Texas voters have been more consistent. The Republicans have not lost a statewide race since 1994, and their statewide candidates consistently find themselves in the 50 to 50 year old range.

“This is not an exact science,” Lee said.

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