If the 2012 elections were held under the interim maps, Democrats would have an advantage as they seek to win back the U.S. House and try to claim more seats in the GOP-controlled Legislature.
Minorities currently are the majority in 10 out of 32 Texas districts and the new map will raise that to 13 out of 36, if the court gives the map final approval as expected.
The San Antonio-based federal court drew the maps after minority groups sued the state claiming a redistricting map drawn by the Republican-controlled Legislature does not reflect the growth in the state’s Hispanic and black population. In a separate case in Washington, a federal court refused to approve the lawmaker-drawn map without a trial, agreeing with the Department of Justice that there was sufficient evidence to question whether it hurt minority representation.
Also on Wednesday, the San Antonio federal court issued final maps for state Senate and House districts that are very similar to ones proposed last week that could also lead to greater minority representation. The court dramatically redrew those maps from what the Legislature passed, giving Democrats a chance to add as many as a dozen seats in the Legislature.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and other Republican leaders have denied that any of Legislature’s redistricting maps would diminish minority voting power and denounced the map issued on Wednesday.
“It seems apparent that the proposed map misapplies federal law and continues the court’s trend of inappropriately venturing into political policymaking rather than simply applying the law,” Abbott said in a statement Wednesday on the congressional maps. “Perhaps worst, in the name of protecting Hispanic voting power, the court seems to be discarding already elected Republican Hispanics in favor of drawing maps that may elect Democratic Hispanics.”
A spokeswoman for Abbott said late Wednesday that he will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to order that all of the maps drawn by the Legislature be used in place of the court-drawn maps.
“We cannot allow any map that so grossly misapplies federal law and continues a trend of inappropriately venturing into political policy-making to move forward unchallenged,” Lauren Bean said in a statement on behalf of Abbott.
Republican lawmakers insist the maps drawn by the Legislature merely reflect the Republican majority in Texas. Experts say three of the new seats would have gone to Republicans under the legislative map. When drawing the interim map, the court gave priority to ensuring minority voting strength was protected in the 2012 election. The court-ordered map will remain in place until the legal fights are resolved.
Lawmakers redraw districts every 10 years to reflect changes in census data. Texas is adding four additional congressional seats in 2012, a reflection of the state’s rapid population growth.