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Analysis

Texas Republicans Are Again Targeting Communities of Color

A district around Fort Worth shows how GOP map drawers are undermining fair representation for Black, Latino, and Asian communities in Texas.

In 2012, a federal court blocked Texas Repub­lic­ans’ attempt to dismantle a state senate district in Tarrant County after find­ing that GOP map draw­ers had inten­tion­ally discrim­in­ated against Latino and Black voters. This should have signaled to Repub­lic­ans to be cautious this decade when redraw­ing the district. Yet remark­ably, they have thrown caution to the wind, passing an even more radical gerry­mander of the district that once again targets the grow­ing polit­ical power of communit­ies of color.

Under the current map, Senate District 10 is a compact district wholly contained in Tarrant County and includes most of the city of Fort Worth. It is one of the state’s more diverse districts.  Last decade, almost half of the county’s Latino popu­la­tion growth took place in SD-10, as did 36 percent of its Black popu­la­tion growth and 32 percent of its Asian popu­la­tion growth.

Under the exist­ing map, SD-10 is only 5,318 people (or just over half a percent) over the ideal district size of 940,178 — the fourth-smal­lest devi­ation among state senate districts. This differ­ence is well within the legally accept­able range for state legis­lat­ive districts, and Repub­lic­ans — had they chosen — could have left SD-10 untouched. Instead, they performed radical surgery on the district, moving over 318,000 people out of SD-10 and repla­cing them with 328,000 people from seven heav­ily Repub­lican rural counties. The new plan makes SD-10 almost 10 percent­age points more white than the current map.

SD10 Change

The changes to the district fall signi­fic­antly along racial and ethnic lines. For example, 42 percent of the people moved out of SD-10 and into SD-9 are Latino. In contrast, 66 percent of the people moved from SD-22 into SD-10 are white. In total, 73 percent of the people added to SD-10 from rural counties are white, while 55 percent of the Tarrant County resid­ents moved out of SD-10 are nonwhite.

Signi­fic­antly, the new plan moves several minor­ity neigh­bor­hoods out of SD-10 into SD-9, includ­ing Cent­ral Mead­ow­brook, which is two-thirds Black and Latino; the North Side of Fort Worth, which is heav­ily Latino; and part of South­lake, which has a substan­tial Asian popu­la­tion.

At present, winning SD-10 — either as a Demo­crat or a Repub­lican — requires appeal­ing to a diverse, multiracial coali­tion of support­ers. By contrast, in the new config­ur­a­tion of the district, elec­tion outcomes will likely be determ­ined by white, heav­ily rural voters with very differ­ent repres­ent­a­tional needs from the urban and suburban voters who currently make up SD-10.

Portion of SD-10 removed under new plan
Portion of SD-10 Removed Under New Plan

Texas has struggled to draw maps that treat communit­ies of color fairly for the past half-century, first under Demo­cratic and now under Repub­lican control. But after a decade when communit­ies of color accoun­ted for 95 percent of the state’s popu­la­tion growth, it is more crit­ical than ever that new maps provide communit­ies of color with a seat at the table. The plan signed by Gov. Greg Abbott does not achieve this goal and should be seen for what it is: an effort to move the state back­wards, not forwards.