While most Americans were still recovering from their Thanksgiving turkey-induced comas, Democrats in Texas were getting one step closer to gaining three Congressional seats in the traditionally red state’s redistricting battle.
After Democrats and Latino groups filed a lawsuit against the map drawn by the Republican-controlled state legislature, a San Antonio-based federal court redrew the map, which is expected to be finalized today.
Texas, which grew by more than 4 million people over the past decade, picks up four additional House seats in light of the 2010 Census, more than any other state.
Minorities accounted for 89 percent of the state’s growth in the past 10 years, with Hispanics alone comprising 65 percent of the state’s population growth over the past decade.
The map, which adjusts the legislature-drawn districts in an attempt to better represent the state’s burgeoning Hispanic population, makes at least three districts more competitive for Democrats by eliminating a Democratic primary challenge in the Austin-San Antonio area and creating two minority opportunity districts.
“This state is changing by the day and our members of Congress should represent those constituencies and not the other way around,” said Trey Martinez Fischer, chairman of the Texas House Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit against the legislature’s map.
State Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican, immediately appealed for a stay on the map. ”It seems apparent that the proposed map misapplies federal law and continues the court’s trend of inappropriately venturing into political policymaking rather than simply applying the law,” Abbott said in a statement Wednesday. “Perhaps worst, in the name of protecting Hispanic voting power, the court seems to be discarding already elected Republican Hispanics in favor of drawing maps that may elect Democratic Hispanics.”
Abbott’s appeal will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the justices will decide whether to make the San Antonio court re-draw the maps.
Martinez Fisher said a stay from the Supreme Court would be “problematic” because it would create further uncertainty over where the district lines will ultimately be and could possibly delay Texas’s primary election, which is scheduled for March.
He said the current court-drawn map was fair because it was created by bipartisan judges, two who were appointed by a Republican president and one by a Democrat.
“This [map] to me doesn’t scream of politics,” Martinez Fischer said. “General Abbott doesn’t like the map and how the map performs, but that’s not a legal objection.”
Martinez Fischer said the legislature-drawn map gave minorities the same number of districts as the original map, despite these large gains in the minority population. Under the court-drawn maps, two of the new districts will be majority-minority.
“The map passed by the court is a significant improvement,” Martinez Fischer said. “Frankly it recognizes and takes into account the growing diversity of our state and the tremendous contribution minorities have made to our state.”
Under the Voting Rights Act, Texas redistricting maps have to be pre-approved by the Justice Department to ensure they fairly represent minority populations. A Washington-based panel of judges is still reviewing the maps.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.