SAN ANTONIO – The redistricting process in Texas has become a hot topic of debate. The new lines drawn by lawmakers following the special session are the subject of several lawsuits, including 10 from Latino rights groups.
The redistricting process happens once every 10 years after the release of U.S. census data. The Texas Legislature is charged with redrawing the boundaries of each election districts for lawmakers.
On Tuesday, KSAT’s Steve Spriester and Stephania Jimenez hosted “Out of Bounds: Repercussions from Redistricting,” to take a closer look at the redistricting process in Texas and how it affects voters in Bexar County.
They were joined by two professors from Trinity University: Jesse Crosson, assistant professor of political science and Carey Latimore, associate professor of history.
Here are the key takeaways from Tuesday’s town hall.
1. What is the likely outcome from the lawsuits against Texas’ redistricting process?
Once redistricting takes place, lawsuits are likely to happen.
“The map that’s drawn is almost never the one, that basically we get stuck with for 10 years until the next census,” Crosson said. “There’s almost always some changes that happen.”
This is the first year for redistricting after the provisions of the Voting Rights Act expired in Congress.
“Texas used to have its map reviewed by the Department of Justice every single 10-year period and that is no longer the case,” Crosson said. “You can expect an especially large amount of legal activity around our map here in Texas, relative to in years past.”
The lawsuits against Texas’ redistricting process will likely make their way through the state courts before the case is heard by the Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court could potentially step in,” Crosson said. “Especially because there are concerns of racial equality that are implied by the redrawing of maps in a state like Texas.”
2. How does redistricting impact the vote of people of color?
According to the data from the 2020 census, the population of Bexar County grew by roughly 300,000 people. More than half of the population growth was people who are Hispanic or Latino, made up of about 180,000 people.
“If you draw a district in a way that doesn’t perhaps grant equality in regards to race or ethnicity with those districts and you dilute that vote, especially if that vote is where the new votes are coming from, you’ve kind of diluted the African American, Latino, and Asian votes,” Latimore said.
Latimore also said race and ethnicity have historically been a part of gerrymandering.
“You can gerrymander certain groups out or you can Gerrymander them into very limited districts,” Latimore said. “You can spread them out to where their vote is diluted or you can place them into one giant district where all of their votes are basically included.”
3. Are there other ways to conduct redistricting?
In Texas, the state lawmakers draw the new lines and then vote on the new map. But the process is done differently in a few other states.
In Arizona, the state has an independent commission to decide how the new congressional districts should look. The commission is made up by an equal number of Republicans and Democrats.
That process isn’t perfect either, Crosson said.
“In the map that has been proposed by the independent redistricting commission, only two of their nine districts are majority minority people,” Crosson said. “Even more strikingly, seven of the districts lean republican versus two leaning democrat. Even though as we know, Biden carried Arizona in 2020.”
4. Why should redistricting matter to voters?
Redistricting is a topic that may seem boring on the surface, but it has an impact on voters everywhere. The lines drawn decide who people vote for from the national level, like U.S. representatives, to the local level, such as school board members.
“The one person, one vote is one of the most precious things we have in our nation,” Latimore said. “It’s something that for so many people, they have not always had the opportunity to have.”
Latimore also said that there are tools to make voting more equal, so that everyone’s vote matters.
“We should want to do it, not for party, not for race, not for people, but for what is right,” Latimore said.
Even though the process involved with redistricting seems complicated, it has a major impact on the future of democracy, Crosson said..
“Just because something sounds like inside baseball, just because something sounds like political muckety-muck and why should I care about something so technical like redistricting,” Crosson said. “Doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a tremendous impact on the way we live our lives in a democracy.”