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Saturday, January 1, 2022 - First day to apply for a ballot by mail using Application for a Ballot by Mail (ABBM) or Federal Post Card Application (FPCA)
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Redistricting In Texas and Abroad
By Johnathan Sicard
Every 10 years, states have the opportunity to draw new political district maps following the release of decennial US Census data. With the completion of the 2020 US Census in April of that year, states began the long process of drawing their new maps to reflect changes to their states’ population and demographics. Texas saw an increase of almost 4 million people between 2010-2020, and was accordingly given two new seats in the House of Representatives1. On October 25, Governor Greg Abbott signed into law the new district map proposed and approved by the Texas State Congress. The new map sees dramatic changes in the layout of districts, as well as the addition of the two new districts in the Austin and Houston areas2. Fernando Trevino, a local politician working in Austin and Travis County, describes the new map as “much more compact around Austin and within Travis as a whole,” mentioning the old map where Austin was broken up between multiple districts but now is encompassed largely by one. As is the case with most redistricting processes, there were plenty of disagreements between state lawmakers on how the map should be redrawn, especially in regards to minority-majority districts.
Minority-majority districts refer to congressional districts in which minorities make up the majority of the eligible, voting-age population. Texas’ previous map included 33 Texas house districts in which Hispanic peoples were the majority, as well as 7 districts where Black voters were the majority, leaving 83 where white voters constituted the majority. The new map drops the number of Hispanic-majority districts to 30, Black-majority districts to 6, and raises the number of white-majority districts to 89. Critics of the new map argue that the new map should reflect the changing demographics of Texas more accurately, stating that 95% of the population growth Texas saw over the last decade came from minorities moving into the state.
Another frequent issue of redistricting that has come into focus with the redistricting cycle is how congressional districts are drawn. Some states, like New York, have recently elected to take the power of redistricting away from their state legislatures and instead hire independent redistricting committees to draw new maps. Many researchers use a metric called efficiency gap to gauge certain aspects of a state’s district maps. Efficiency gap refers to the difference between the vote share a political party receives in statewide elections and the percentage of seats the party ends up controlling. According to FiveThirtyEight.com, New York’s new congressional map, which has not yet been approved by the legislature, has an efficiency gap of D + 0.8, meaning that the Democratic party would receive about 0.8% more of the seats in New York’s Congress than their vote is worth. Comparatively, Texas’ new map has an efficiency gap of R + 15.3, meaning Republicans will control about 15.3% more Congressional seats than they received votes for 3. When asked for his opinion on independent redistricting committees, Trevino believes that “redistricting by state legislatures give responsibility and visibility to allow voters to voice their opinions or concerns with the new maps,” and believes that Texas will continue to use its state legislature to handle redistricting.
If you would like to see what district your address is in as well as changes to the Texas map, the Texas Tribune has a great lookup tool that can be accessed at https://apps.texastribune.org/features/2021/texas-redistricting-map/.
Here are some interesting articles and news stories we found over the last two weeks! TX Votes is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to providing voting and civic engagement information, and our only goal with this section of our newsletter is to share a few interesting articles and news about Texas and its politics! We encourage you to read multiple sources and a variety of viewpoints to ensure you are well informed.
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U.S. Census Bureau Quickfacts: Texas. US Census Bureau, 1 Apr. 2020, https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/TX.
Limon, Elvia. “Gov. Greg Abbott Signs off on Texas' New Political Maps.” The Texas Tribune, The Texas Tribune, 25 Oct. 2021, https://www.texastribune.org/2021/10/25/2021-texas-redistricting-explained/.
Siver, Nate. “What Redistricting Looks like in Every State.” FiveThirtyEight, 2 Nov. 2021, https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/redistricting-2022-maps/.