Texas House lawmakers are debating new proposed state house district lines, with a vote expected late Tuesday to advance the gerrymandered map and bring it closer to becoming law.
Much of the debate over the map has focused on how statehouse districts in major metro areas like Harris and Dallas County saw the percentage of voting-age minorities diluted under the new plan.
That retrogressing of Latino and Black voting strength, Democratic lawmakers warned, would be a violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and land Texas’ new district maps in federal court if they were signed into law.
Many Democrats speaking against the proposed district lines said the map was rushed and had little input from experts. Republicans countered by saying the quorum break had cut down the time they had to work on the bill, House Bill 1.
“If I could do it again, I would actually be out of here right now,” said Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas) referring to breaking quorum.
This is the first redistricting session for Texas without federal preclearance, a provision of the Voting Rights Act that previously forced states with a history of racist voter suppression to be subject to federal oversight. That provision was gutted by a Supreme Court decision in 2013 that has given Republican lawmakers much more leeway to creating racially gerrymandering maps.
Many of the early amendments offered against the proposed map focused on creating some sort of safety net in the absence of preclearance.
“Just like you’re tired of us talking about race, we’re tired of having to talk about race,” said Rep. Toni Rose (D-Dallas) introducing an amendment that would prevent the map from becoming law unless a federal district court found them to have no discriminatory effect.
Rep. Gene Wu (D-Houston) introduced an amendment that would require the secretary of state to produce a study of the ethnic and racial impact of the new district lines.
“Wouldn’t we want that validation?” said Mary E. Gonzalez (D-Clint) stumping for the amendment that was eventually voted down.
Lawmakers have filed more than 69 amendments on the bill, a majority of them dedicated to modifying pieces of various districts in the proposed plan. The third special session ends next week.
Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org