Texas Senate votes again for redistricting

The Texas Senate voted unanimously on Wednesday to restart the ten-year process of redistricting the state’s political districts, a year and a half after the Legislature completed the process and created new districts. These newly formed constituencies increased Republican majorities in both the Senate and the House of Representatives and reduced the number of Colored voters.

The redistricting process this year is largely procedural and is not expected to lead to any other results.

Senator Joan Huffman, R-Houston, said she is taking the step “out of great care” to ensure the Legislature meets its constitutional requirement for redistricting in its first regular session after the federal census, which is held every 10 years. Due to the pandemic, census data was not made public until after the last regularly scheduled legislative session on May 31, 2021. The limited-county maps were adopted at a subsequent special session in the same year.

Two Democratic lawmakers, Senators Roland Gutierrez of Antonio and Sarah Eckhardt of Austin sued, saying it violated the Texas Constitution because census data was not received until August 12, 2021. Tuesday, the first regular session after the publication of these figures.

Eckhardt said the Senate’s decision to take up the matter again proves she and Gutierrez were right about the law, but she said she doesn’t expect big changes to the state’s 2021 maps.

“I think it will be a validation,” she said. “I would like to see a substantive discussion taking into account the views of interested parties during the first round.”

However, she urged Texans to make their voices heard about how maps should be drawn so they fairly represent voters in the state.

Huffman, who chaired the redistricting committee in the 2021 legislative session and will again lead its efforts this year, said the procedure would follow rules similar to those applied last session and would create an opportunity for “regional hearings” in Capitol, which will be broadcast online to the public throughout the state. The public will also have the opportunity to testify virtually at these hearings. These hearings will be held from 25 to 28 January.

“This resolution is meant to address the unique nature of redistricting to ensure a fair and transparent process,” Huffman said.

The Senate resolution only covers senatorial districts, but Attorney General lawyers said in court that the process would likely have to be repeated for the House of Representatives and the State Board of Education, which were also re-districted in the last session. However, this process does not extend to constituencies.

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