Texas remaps congressional districts in process called redistricting

The ins and outs of redistricting

Texas has approved the new maps for the congressional districts in favor of the Republican party. This process is called redistricting. 

Redistricting is the process where the congressional districts are redrawn. This is done every 10 years after the collection of data on population and demographics, which is called the census. 

The Texas State Legislature is responsible for drawing out the new districts, and they have to remap within 60 days. 

The Governor can veto any maps drawn, but the legislature can override a veto with a two-thirds vote. 

There is also a “Back-Up Legislative Commission” that takes over the redistricting responsibilities if the legislature does not draw the maps in time. This board is composed of the Lieutenant Governor, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Attorney General, the Comptroller of Public Accounts, and the Commissioner of the General Land Office.

While there are no state laws that lay out the requirements for drawing out the congressional districts, there is an article in the Texas Constitution (Art. III §§ 25, 26) that the districts must keep the entirety of the counties and be adjacent.

Texas has historically held public hearings before the district drawing begins. They also allow map submissions from the public. 

Since there are not many requirements and free-reign with redrawing the districts, there are quite a few loopholes. 

There is a political tactic called “gerrymandering,” which is the strategic drawing of districts to benefit a specific political party. Politicians will draw districts where the population is a majority of their party so that they have a higher chance of getting reelected.

This term came from Massachusetts in 1812 when Governor Eldbrige Gerry approved the remapping plans with districts that gave favor to his party the Republicans. 

According to a political cartoon run by a newspaper called the Boston Gazette, one district looked like “a new species of monster.” 

More newspapers began to print the cartoon where they combined the two words “Gerry” and “salamander, ” which is where the word gerrymandering came from.

While this was over 200 years ago, gerrymandering is still alive and well today. It can even be seen in the new districts that have just been remapped this year.

In the 2011 redistricting, there were altercations between the Democrats and Republicans, both political and legal. 

The Democrats blamed the Republicans for the lack of minority representation in the districts they mapped.

After federal court cases and legal halts, the Texas Governor approved new districts that were signed into law in 2013. These were later deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court for intentional discrimination. 

The decision was almost completely reversed in 2018, leaving only one district that needed change.

This is an extreme example of what gerrymandering can result in, just one case of it getting out of hand.

More information on redistricting in Texas can be found at https://redistricting.capitol.texas.gov/

A comparative map of the old and new districts in Texas can be found at https://apps.texastribune.org/features/2021/texas-redistricting-map/. This website allows you to search any city in Texas and see what district it is in, what it looks like and the data on it.