Amendment reverses plan to remove Third Ward and TSU from 18th Congressional district, and combine Congresswoman Jackson Lee and Congressman Green together, but fails to provide African Americans with increased or equal representation across the state
Back on October 6th, the Houston Forward Times published an article entitled, Is the New Redistricting Plan Racist? where we highlighted the controversial redistricting maps that had been introduced that sought to combine the U.S. Congressional districts of Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) and Congressman Al Green (TX-09).
After intense negotiations among Texas House members and state senators, along with appearances at the state Capitol from the two impacted congressional leaders, a compromise was made that reversed the plans to pair the two legislative leaders together.
The proposed Senate Bill 6 would have moved Third Ward, Freedmen’s Town, Texas Southern University, downtown Houston, University of Houston, and even Congresswoman Jackson Lee’s own home out of the 18th Congressional District, that she has represented since 1995. In addition to that, Congressman Green’s district office, many of his constituents, and his own home in the 9th Congressional district, were all slated to be combined with the 18th Congressional district.
The proposed actions surrounding the 9th and 18th Congressional districts would have been devastating and unnecessary. It led to cries of racism and gerrymandering at its finest.
Members of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus and longtime Democrats in the Texas House came to the rescue to oppose this proposed action, which was one of many parts of the bill that opponents felt was problematic.
State Representative Senfronia Thompson and State Representative Harold Dutton worked tirelessly behind the scenes to restore the historic African American communities that were slated to be removed from the 18th Congressional district and were successfully able to do so.
The two seasoned legislators released a joint statement regarding the turn of events.
“I’m grateful to my colleagues in the Texas House for understanding the pleas of our communities and for those who voted in favor of our amendment, 118-19,” said Rep. Thompson. “Although the amendment doesn’t fix the harm done in the statewide map, the unpairing of Congresswoman Jackson Lee and Congressman Green is a huge victory for the voters of Harris County.
Rep. Dutton had similar sentiments.
“Senate Bill 6 as it passed out of the Senate, was an egregious act on the communities of color that fall within Congressional District 9 and Congressional District 18,” said Rep. Dutton. “Without this amendment, these communities which have historically been together since 1976 when the late Barbara Jordan first took office, would have been separated. This was one legislative issue that had to be resolved in favor of the people. It was a pleasure to join Dean Thompson in making this happen.”
Many are arguing that Senate Bill 6 was introduced to dilute the voting power of the African American community and other communities of color through the act of gerrymandering.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the act of “gerrymandering” is defined as:
“the practice of dividing or arranging a territorial unit into election districts in a way that gives one political party an unfair advantage in elections.”
According to the Texas Republican leadership, they have done nothing wrong and have simply followed the laws in
place to justify the maps that were constructed. Sen. Joan Huffman (R) is the head of the Senate Redistricting Committee and authored the maps. She argued that the maps were “drawn blind to race” and that her legal team made sure that they acknowledged the details of the Voting Rights Act that are currently in place.
This is a convenient argument, considering that the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which had key restrictions in it that prevented states like Texas from extreme gerrymandering since its passage, was dealt a severe blow in 2013 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down key provisions in the law that forced federal officials to gain approval for redistricting.
See, prior to that 2013 U.S. Supreme Court controversial ruling, a panel of judges or the U.S. Justice Department could have had the maps thrown out. Now, based off their ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court has decided that systemic racism is not the same as it was in the 1960s, and therefore they no longer needed these provisions.
This singular action by the U.S. Supreme Court has effectively given states like Texas the ability to do what they want relative to redistricting and gerrymandering.
Federal courts have found that Texas Republicans have used redistricting to intentionally discriminate against Texans of color in the recent past.
It is no secret that Texas Republicans have felt their grip on retaining control in Texas waning, especially after the 2018 midterm elections featuring Congressman Beto Rourke who became a formidable challenger to Sen. Ted Cruz, and the recent presidential election results. Couple that with what happened with the two Senate seats that flipped to Democrats in Georgia, and one can see how legalized gerrymandering is the ideal way to ensure white voters and Republican-leaning voters can potentially help Texas Republicans retain power for years to come.
According to the 2020 census, 4 million people moved to Texas since the last census was done in 2010. That growth, over a ten-year period consisting of people of color, should warrant that people of color should have increased and equal representation.
Senate Bill 6 creates no new districts in Texas, even though African Americans and people of color accounted for over 9 out of 10 new residents in Texas from 2010 to 2020.
Let’s face it! Texas Republicans operated off the Golden Rule. Not the Golden Rule referred to in the Bible, but the often quoted one that states: “He who has the gold, makes the rules!”
Texas Republicans control both the House and the Senate in the Texas Legislature, which gives them the power to control the redistricting process. It is not illegal.
The way to change that is by getting out to vote and taking over the House, Senate and Governor’s office. With this new redistricting map, coupled with the other recent legislative changes in Texas surrounding the voting process, it appears to be a tall task.