Texas releases draft map amid redistricting rush among states

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Texas lawmakers unveiled a draft of their much-anticipated congressional map Monday, as legislatures across the country continue to finalize the landscape for 2022 midterm elections.

Texas, the only state to gain two congressional seats this apportionment cycle, would add seats around the Houston and Austin areas. The Republican-controlled legislature could be one of the first to finalize its map in its special session in the next few weeks. The state currently has 23 Republican members in the House and 13 Democrats.

Michael Li, senior counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University, said Republicans were not as aggressive as they could have been with the new map, but it likely did take several competitive seats off the table for Democrats. He pointed out the map did not create more “minority opportunity” districts in places that experienced substantial growth over the decade.

“The Dallas-Fort Worth area could easily, easily support three, and some would even argue four, opportunity districts, but they kind of set Latino voters back quite a bit when they aggressively redrew these lines,” Li said.

A congressional campaign aide for a Texas Democrat expressed surprise the new seats didn’t reach areas of north Texas that grew substantially over the decade. The aide said the map “is really about incumbent protection from what I can tell.”

Li said that nationally, many partisan mapmakers are looking to drag out any advantage they can.

“People are turning over the cushions on the couch looking for change wherever they can find it,” he said.

Georgia legislators also unveiled their own map Monday, the first step in the legislature-controlled process.

In Oregon, the state House approved its new congressional map in a party-line vote Monday, sending the plan to the state Senate. That map would create a new seat in the Portland area — giving Democrats three “safe” seats, leaving two seats in competitive areas, and one in Republican territory, according to an analysis by the Campaign Legal Center’s Planscore tool.

The Republican-leaning seat would cover most of the eastern portion of the state, which former Republican Rep. Greg Walden held until his retirement in 2020. Monday’s vote came after statehouse Republicans over the weekend denied Democrats a quorum to pass the maps.

Walden noted that if Republicans allowed a state-mandated deadline Monday to approve maps to pass, the Democratic secretary of state would control the legislative redistricting process.

“You’re rolling the dice; is the negotiated map that came over from the Senate better than the unknown map the secretary of state could draw?” Walden said in an interview. “They have it within their capability to take the plan and make matters even worse.”

Li pointed out that states such as North Carolina may also premier maps in the next few weeks.

“This is just the early winds of a hurricane that is about to get much worse,” he said.

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