Abbott signs new Texas political maps into law


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday signed into law new political maps that would effectively shore up the GOP’s power in the state.

The signing came a week after Republican state lawmakers gave final approval to negotiated maps that largely favors GOP incumbents and seeks to add Republican-leaning voters to suburban districts where Democrats have gained ground in recent years. 

The congressional map includes the two new districts the state gained after the 2020 census. Lawmakers opted to draw those districts in the Houston and Austin areas. The new districts will be used for the first time in the 2022 midterm elections. 

The new Texas maps were approved by Republicans, who control both chambers of the state legislature, against the will of Democratic state lawmakers. It’s only the latest hit for Texas Democrats after GOP legislators passed an elections bill earlier this year that includes new limits on early voting hours and fresh voter ID requirements for mail-in voting.

The new congressional map signed into law on Monday also increases the number of districts that would have been carried by former President Trump. Trump won 22 of Texas’s congressional districts in the 2020 election, but under the new configuration, he would have won 25. 

The redistricting process in Texas is expected to draw a series of legal challenges. One lawsuit that was filed before Abbott signed the new maps into law alleges that the new districts discriminate against voters of color. 

Critics say the redrawn congressional, legislative and State Board of Education maps do not reflect the major growth of the Hispanic community, which made up nearly half of the state’s population gain since 2020. People of color accounted for 95% of the state’s population boom over the last decade, with much of the growth concentrated in cities and suburban areas, census data show.

“With his signature today, Governor Abbott continues the shameful five-decade-long tradition of ramming through extremely gerrymandered maps in an undemocratic process,” Anthony Gutierrez, Common Cause Texas executive director, said in a news release. “These racially and partisan gerrymandered maps deny every voter in Texas from having an equal say in the issues we care about most, like a stronger economy, better schools, and affordable healthcare.”

Abbott’s office didn’t release any remarks about the bill signing.

The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund has already asked a federal court to toss out the maps, arguing the redrawn boundaries violate the federal Voting Rights Act and dilute the voting strength of Hispanic voters. The new maps are generally expected to withstand legal challenges, but battles over aspects of the boundaries could last several years.

A second federal lawsuit against the maps was filed Monday, with advocacy organization Voto Latino and a group of individual voters arguing the new U.S. House boundaries dilute Latino and Black voting strength in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

Because Abbott signed the redistricting plans before a Nov. 15 deadline set by state lawmakers, the primary election is slated for March 1, 2022.

This year, Republican lawmakers have a clearer path toward using the redistricting lines they want because Texas is no longer required to get federal approval on new political maps. For decades, every Texas redistricting plan has been either changed or tossed out by a federal court after being found in violation of the Voting Rights Act.

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