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Texas Passes Congress Map     10/19 06:16

   Texas Republicans approved redrawn U.S. House maps that favor incumbents and 
decrease political representation for growing minority communities, even as 
Latinos drive much of the growth in the nation's largest red state.

   AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- Texas Republicans approved redrawn U.S. House maps 
that favor incumbents and decrease political representation for growing 
minority communities, even as Latinos drive much of the growth in the nation's 
largest red state.

   The maps were approved late Monday night following outcry from Democrats 
over what they claimed was a rushed redistricting process crammed into a 30-day 
session, and one which gave little time for public input. They also denounced 
the reduction of minority opportunity districts -- Texas will now have seven 
House districts where Latino residents hold a majority, down from eight -- 
despite the state's changing demographics.

   "What we are doing in passing this congressional map is a disservice to the 
people of Texas," Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia said to the chamber just 
before the final vote.

   GOP Gov. Greg Abbott is expected to sign off on the changes.

   Civil rights groups, including the Mexican American Legal Defense and 
Education Fund, sued before Republican lawmakers were even done Monday. The 
lawsuit alleges that Republican mapmakers diluted the political strength of 
minority voters by not drawing any new districts where Latino residents hold a 
majority, despite Latinos making up half of Texas' 4 million new residents over 
the last decade.

   Abbott's office did not respond to a message seeking comment.

   Republicans have said they followed the law in defending the maps, which 
protect their slipping grip on Texas by pulling more GOP-leaning voters into 
suburban districts where Democrats have made inroads in recent years.

   Texas has been routinely dragged into court for decades over voting maps, 
and in 2017, a federal court found that a Republican-drawn map was drawn to 
intentionally discriminate against minority voters. But two years later, that 
same court said there was insufficient reason to take the extraordinary step of 
putting Texas back under federal supervision before changing voting laws or 
maps.

   The maps that overhaul how Texas' nearly 30 million residents are sorted 
into political districts --- and who is elected to represent them --- bookends 
a highly charged year in the state over voting rights. Democratic lawmakers 
twice walked out on an elections bill that tightened the state's already strict 
voting rules, which they called a brazen attempt to disenfranchise minorities 
and other Democratic-leaning voters.

   The plan does not create any additional districts where Black or Hispanic 
voters make up more than 50% of the voting population, even as people of color 
accounted for more than 9 of 10 new residents in Texas over the past decade.

   Republican state Sen. Joan Huffman, who authored the maps and leads the 
Senate Redistricting Committee, told fellow lawmakers that they were "drawn 
blind to race." She said her legal team ensured the plan followed the Voting 
Rights Act.

   The Texas GOP control both chambers of the Legislature, giving them nearly 
complete control of the mapmaking process. The state has had to defend their 
maps in court after every redistricting process since the Voting Rights Act 
took effect in 1965, but this will be the first since a U.S. Supreme Court 
ruling said Texas and other states with a history of racial discrimination no 
longer need to have the Justice Department scrutinize the maps before they are 
approved.

   However, drawing maps to engineer a political advantage is not 
unconstitutional. The proposal would also make an estimated two dozen of the 
state's 38 congressional districts safe Republican districts, with an 
opportunity to pick up at least one additional newly redrawn Democratic 
stronghold on the border with Mexico, according to an analysis by The 
Associated Press of data from last year's election collected by the Texas 
Legislative Council. Currently, Republicans hold 23 of the state's 36 seats.

   Following negotiations between Texas House members and state senators, the 
Houston-area districts of U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat who is 
serving her 14th term, and U.S. Rep Al Green, a neighboring Democrat, were 
restored, unpairing the two and drawing Jackson Lee's home back into her 
district.

   Texas lawmakers also approved redrawn maps for their own districts, with 
Republicans following a similar plan that does not increase minority 
opportunity districts and would keep their party in power in the state House 
and Senate.

 
 
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