(Dallas Rep. Helen Giddings)
Redistricting maps are a topic of bitter partisan debate in states across the nation, and Texas is no different. A second map drawn by the Republican-led state legislature has local African-American and Latino lawmakers crying foul. It’s only natural that the state’s GOP would create a map that works to their advantage, but the population growth reported in the most recent census, minority lawmakers argue, warrants a different approach.
Dallas Rep. Helen Giddings represents a district that has one of the highest Black voter participation rates in the nation. Although her district would retain most of its original configuration, she believes that the proposed House and Senate maps do not accurately reflect the population shift that has occurred in the past 10 years. She told BET.com that it would preserve the current number of local representatives and senators but limits what she calls “opportunity seats.” She is referring to districts that have a large enough proportion of African-American and Latino voters to make a significant impact on who is elected to serve them, regardless of the official’s race or ethnicity.
Giddings said that several groups have initiated lawsuits, and “the maps are indeed going to be challenged.”
According to Murry Matthews, who serves as executive director for Rep. Sylvester Turner, chairman of the Texas Legislative Black Caucus, Republicans fully acknowledge that Blacks and Latinos represent 90 percent of the state’s population growth, but they didn’t create any new sets for minorities.
“What they’ve done in a lot of districts is pack minorities to dilute their presence,” he said.
Based on a map drawn by the Black caucus, there should be 13 districts represented by African-Americans and 11 Senate seats, said Lemual Price, legislative director for Rep. Yvonne Davis. In addition, Black lawmakers contend that three of the four new congressional seats the state will gain should be represented by a minority.
“If kept intact, the maps adopted by the Republican majority will undercut the influence that African-Americans and Latinos will have over the next 10 years and reduce the influence they’ll have in the electoral process,” Price said.
The state’s Black caucus has enlisted legal counsel and the aid of the local NAACP, which is assisting members in their efforts to challenge the maps.