Texas Senate Approves Maps With Fewer Minority Districts

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — The Texas Senate on Friday approved newly drawn district maps that would keep Republicans dominant in the state's congressional representation, even amid rapidly shifting demographics.

Next the maps will go to the GOP-dominated Texas House of Representatives, where they are expected to be approved before reaching Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's desk to be signed into law.

Minority rights groups and Democrats say the Republican mapmakers are ignoring demographic trends. More than nine in 10 of the 4 million people who moved to Texas over the past decade are people of color.

Texas is now home to more than 29 million people, the latest census figures show. America's largest red state is second in population to California, which is home to nearly 40 million. That growth led to Texas gaining two more seats in Congress, for a total of 38 representatives.

Republicans currently have 23 of Texas' congressional seats, while Democrats have 13.

Under the proposed maps, the number of Hispanic majority districts would shrink from eight to seven. There would also be no districts with a majority of Black residents.

State Senator Joan Huffman, a Republican and the chair of the Senate's redistricting committee, said the maps were drawn fairly and “blind to race.” Huffman said she had sought legal counseling to verify they followed the federal Voting Rights Act.

The maps were largely unchanged from the way those originally introduced to the Senate, despite Democratic efforts to tack on several amendments.

Democrats are too few in the Senate to effect much change. Among the failed amendments was an attempt to move Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee's home back into her Houston district. Another tried to return Fort Bliss, a U.S. Army base in El Paso, to the district of Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar, of El Paso, instead of moving it into a Republican-controlled district that stretches over 500 miles (800 kilometers) into San Antonio.