Texas
Congressional BoundariesDrawn by legislature
State BoundariesDrawn by legislature
Governor's PartyRepublican
Legislative PartyRepublican

Census-related Redistricting Timeline Delays

State Legislative

Alert:
Guarded

Congressional

Alert:
Guarded

Process

State Legislature

Texas's state legislative and congressional districts are drawn by the Legislature by ordinary statute, and are subject to the Governor's veto. The Legislature can override vetoes with a two-thirds vote in each chamber.

Back-Up Legislative Commission

If the state Legislature fails to draw new legislative districts in the first session following the Census, the Legislative Redistricting Board of Texas acts as a fallback mechanism. This Board would consist of five members: 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. The Board must assemble in Austin within 90 days of the end of the legislative session and must then approve a district plan within 60 days. A simple majority vote is enough for the Board to approve a new district plan.

Criteria

In addition to the federal requirements of one person, one vote and the Voting Rights Act, Texas’s state constitution (Art. III §§ 25, 26) requires that state legislative districts be contiguous and preserve whole counties. There are no state law requirements for drawing congressional districts.

Public Input

While Texas law does not require public hearings, Texas has a history of taking public input in the lead-up to line-drawing. Though regional public hearings scheduled in 2020 were cancelled following the advent of the pandemic, regional hearings have been held in 2021. The Legislature will accept public map submissions after Census data are available.

2011 Cycle

The 2011 redistricting cycle in Texas was rife with political and legal controversy. As the process began, infighting broke out between Republicans over the impact of Hispanic population growth on state legislative seats. Once proposed maps were released, Democrats immediately criticized Republicans for underrepresenting minorities.

The legal challenges to redistricting began with a federal court denying preclearance to Texas under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act; the Supreme Court vacated that decision a year later after its Shelby County decision. The legal hold-up led a San Antonio federal court to issue orders drawing interim maps (Congress, state Senate, state House); in 2013, the Governor signed new redistricting plans, based heavily on the court’s maps, into law. In 2017, a trial court found that the 2013 congressional and state House plans were unconstitutional, citing remnants of intentional discrimination. However, in 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed most of the trial court’s opinion, declaring that no remedy was needed for all but one state House district.

Issues

Pitfalls

The Voting Rights Act and the Constitution currently guarantee that minority populations should have fair opportunities to elect representatives. In Texas, this has not been achieved: despite picking up five more House representatives in the last two decades thanks to increases in the Hispanic population, no additional Hispanic Congresspersons have been elected. This discrepancy is caused by racial gerrymandering.

Additionally, this will be Texas’s first cycle without the protections of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which was struck down in the 2013 Supreme Court case Shelby County v. Holder. In the absence of preclearance requirements protecting communities of color, and given the recent history of partisan and racial gerrymandering in Texas, observers should closely monitor every step of the redistricting process to ensure fair treatment for all.

Congressional Seats

Following the 2020 Census apportionment results, Texas gained two congressional seats.

Potential Reform

HB282 is currently in front of the redistricting committee in the Legislature. The bill would create an Independent Redistricting Commission for congressional districts. The listed criteria are compliance with federal law, contiguity, preservation of political subdivisions and communities of interest, and compactness. Incumbency cannot be considered, and districts may not intentionally favor or disfavor a political party or candidate. The bill also provides for an open public hearing process.

Back in 2011, the state Senate passed SB 22, which would create an Independent Redistricting Commission for congressional districts; however, the state House did not consider the bill. For at least the past three legislative sessions, state representatives have introduced legislation (HJR 49, HJR 32, HJR 123) to create such a commission; none have made it out of committee.

Actions

Partner with Fair Maps Texas and become an Observer Corps volunteer to monitor the redistricting process.

In 2021, participate in the Legislature’s public input process.

  • Obtain Texas redistricting data from OpenPrecincts.
  • Start to plan out what defines your community – whether it’s a shared economic interest, school districts, or other social or other cultural, historical, or economic interests – and how that can be represented on a map. This will come in handy once the Legislature starts collecting feedback.
  • Use software tools such as Dave's Redistricting App and Districtr to draw district maps showing either (a) what a fair map would look like, or (b) where the community you believe should be better represented is located.

Contacts

Texas Legislative Council

League of Women Voters of Texas

Texas Organizing Project

Texas State LULAC

Fair Maps Texas

Sources

All About Redistricting

NCSL

Ballotpedia