Explaining the Strangest-Shaped Districts of the Texas Congressional Map – Texas Monthly


There’s nothing quite like lying on a nice patch of grass, trying to spot shapes in the drifting fluffy cumulus clouds. Looking at the Texas Congress maps is a similar experience. For decades, the state’s US House quarters have been so savagely manipulated by the ruling party – the GOP for the last generation and the Democrats for the previous one – that their forms can be downright psychedelic. The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature on Monday unveiled its proposed map for the next decade, and fans of weird district shapes weren’t disappointed. While previous fan favorites such as Dan Crenshaw’s TX-2, a Mario Brothers. – which looks like an elongated pipe from a neighborhood – have been reconfigured, there are plenty of entertaining newcomers to watch.

Most of the state’s few swing neighborhoods have gotten a lot less swingin ‘. Republicans, would have helped by an agent who previously helped make gerrymanders in Wisconsin, plan to shore up their chances of holding a handful of seats the party narrowly won in 2018 and 2020. To do so, they have offered to siphon off Democratic voters from those districts and in two previously contested seats Democrats won in those two years – Colin Allred’s seat north of Dallas and Houston-based Lizzie Fletcher. A seat rooted in the Rio Grande Valley, TX-15, currently occupied by Democrat Vicente Gonzalez and never held by a Republican, is the only one proposed in the new map that would have been within a five-point range had it existed during the 2020 Election. It has been redesigned to include rural Republican voters farther north and appears intended to take advantage of Tejano voters’ recent shift to the GOP.

Courtesy of the Texas Legislative Council

Statewide, there will be one more English-speaking majority district than on the previous map, and one less predominantly Hispanic. The two new seats allocated to Texas for its burgeoning population will be placed in Austin and Houston, and even though non-English speaking newcomers accounting for 95 percent of the state’s population growth over the past decade, the two districts will be majority anglo.

The map has yet to be approved by La Lege – and will almost certainly be challenged in court – but as we prepare for five potential election cycles with our newly expanded Congressional delegation, here’s a quick analysis of the strangest and most bizarre shaped districts. of their origin. to be.

North Houston
Existing card / proposed card.Maps: Courtesy of the Texas Legislative Council

Dan Crenshaw’s district has gone up in flames: the new maps remove the part of the district that meandered through central Houston – where there was a high density of Democratic voters – in favor of a big old man in Montgomery County, the largest majority Trump-voting county in Texas. As a result, the Crenshaw District, which Trump won by a single point in 2020, is now proposed to become the one who the former president would have said by a whopping 23 points. (Crenshaw himself topped the former president by 12 points in the election, but the race may still have been too close for the comfort of the GOP.)

The proposed quarter looks a bit like a gulper shark, with two dorsal fins protruding from its back. “Be careful!” the little shark seems to roar, “I’ll bite anyone who threatens to derail the prospects of a rising GOP star in the event of a future election wave!” And because he’s a shark, he knows a lot about the waves.

South Dallas – Fort Worth and East Texas
Existing card / proposed card.Maps: Courtesy of the Texas Legislative Council

This district, run by Jake Ellzey, a Republican who won a special election this summer, has been a neat little cut-and-paste job for the past decade. Take a more or less quadrilateral rural piece, a reasonably geometric suburban slice, staple them together at the corner, and you’ve got a mega-neighborhood that gives you something more abstract, contemporary, and collage-like. But the seat went from GOP +19 in 2012 to GOP +9 in congressional votes last year. The overhaul makes it safer for Republicans. The district’s rural strip will stretch to Cherokee County in eastern Texas, while its suburban portion will be reduced to a tiny stretch that winds along Interstate 30 to Irving. Do the voters of Palestine and Irving have the same needs or interests, so it makes sense to put them in the same district? Texas cartographers don’t particularly care.

Austin and the Brazos Valley
Existing card / proposed card.Maps: Courtesy of the Texas Legislative Council

Longtime GOP representative Mike McCaul’s district included large chunks of Austin and Houston, which is no small feat considering the cities are a two-and-a-half-hour drive from either of the other. In the proposed map, however, the district no longer includes any part of Houston and retains part of the wealthy Anglo West side of Austin, which McCaul calls home. The neighborhood now looks like a tropical bird, even though it has had its wings clipped. The rural Texans hunched over the GOP in Brenham, Huntsville and the other communities west of Houston that make up the bird’s chest, will be crushed with a small handful of suburban Austinites hunched over the GOP, which include the bird’s tail feathers. Birds of a feather, as they say, come together and are represented by the same member of Congress, despite their geographic and economic disparities.

McAllen in the eastern suburbs of San Antonio
Existing card / proposed card.Maps: Courtesy of the Texas Legislative Council

This district has long stretched from the Rio Grande Valley to the areas east of San Antonio and has been called the “fajita strip” because of its length and narrowness (and also because of the good neighborhood Tex-Mex cuisine). In the new map, many other districts have received a complete reinvention of their boundaries – the kind of open-ended, blue-sky ideation where nothing is forbidden (unless the courts, at some point in the future, say that ‘this is a violation of the Voting Rights Act). The new TX-15, on the other hand, is the product of a more refined artistic sensibility: it started with the original outline and was then carefully sculpted around the edges. Those with less refined sensibilities might miss out on frills like excising all of Jim Hogg County (Biden +18) and adding part of Wilson County (Trump +48), but learn to appreciate such subtleties are essential for developing a true sense of Texas political art. Voters in the old quarter favored Biden by 2 points and Vicente Gonzalez by 3 in 2020; within the new boundaries proposed by the district, voters preferred Trump by 3 points instead.

Central Texas, the Brazos Valley and East Texas
Existing card / proposed card.Maps: Courtesy of the Texas Legislative Council

This neighborhood, represented by Pete Sessions, had a compact form over the past decade. Bryan, College Station, and Waco were his anchor points, as he drew a handful of voters into suburban Austin. In the 2021 version of the map, however, TX-17 stretches from thick to thin: where it once looked like a big little dog, sitting like a good boy waiting for a treat, it’s now a chattering seahorse. of a neighborhood. Lufkin puts makeup on the creature’s nose, as its tail continues to curl all the way to the rapidly evolving suburb of Austin. Bryan and College Station – twin towns just four miles apart, whose names are often spoken together in one breath – will now have a separate representation, with most of College Station being referred back to TX-10 in favor of the Pflugervillians and Texans. from the east all exit to Nacogdoches. As well as being a cute little sea beast, the new district dilutes the political power of suburban voters in an area that just ten years ago was a trusted red part of the state, but has become bluer since.

Dallas and Tarrant counties
Existing card / proposed card.Maps: Courtesy of the Texas Legislative Council

The eye-catching of the new congressional districts in Texas is the 33rd, which is owned by Democrat Marc Veasey. The district has long been predominantly black and Latino – what the voting rights law describes as a “minority opportunity district,” intended to ensure minority voters are represented in Congress. In the past, when it was common for non-English speaking voters to live on one side of segregated cities, grouping them into a single congressional district was easy: you could just draw a circle around that side of town. Nowadays, however, these voters live in suburbs that are becoming more diverse and represent a much larger percentage of the region’s overall population, so bringing them together into a single district requires more creativity.

The proposed district, in which 85% of voters are not Anglo-Saxon, looks like a creepy (but sympathetic!) Ghost. The Spirit stretches in narrow, wispy strands from Marine Creek Lake, northwest of Fort Worth, to neighborhoods west of Arlington Lake, floating over parts of I-30, to what its ethereal form settles to haunt parts of Grand Prairie and Dallas proper. His ghostly body raises its little hands on the northeast side of the district, near the Valley Ranch community in Irving, as if to say, “I don’t know, man, you find out if it’s legal! Many English-speaking neighbors of the district voters, who live just down the block, could now end up in TX-6, TX-12, TX-24 or TX-25, most of which manage to remain districts in English-speaking majority despite the demographic change in the region.

The League of United Citizens of Latin America has already made noise about continuing the proposed TX-33. While it ensures representation of non-English speaking voters, cartographers appear to group as many non-English voters as possible into a district to narrow the scope of their vote, in a way some federal courts have ruled illegal in similar cases. . Don’t fall in love with the ghost form, in other words. It may not last long.

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