Redistricting in Texas
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|Redistricting in Texas|
|Current legislative control: |
|Congressional process: |
|State legislature process: |
|State Senate: 31|
|State House: 150|
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|Redistricting • State-by-state redistricting procedures • State legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 Census|
- 1 Background
- 2 State process
- 3 District maps
- 4 Competitiveness
- 5 Race and ethnicity
- 6 Redistricting after the 2010 census
- 7 Redistricting ballot measures
- 8 Recent news
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
- 11 References
Redistricting is a fiercely-contested issue, primarily due to gerrymandering, the practice of drawing district lines to favor one political party, individual or constituency over another. Two areas of contention include the following:
- Competitiveness: Political parties or incumbents sometimes draw district lines for their benefit at the expense of proportionality and fair representation. Some argue that this practice contributes to the present lack of competitive elections. Uncompetitive elections can in turn discourage participation.
- Race and ethnicity: District lines sometimes minimize the influence of minority voters by disproportionately consolidating them within single districts or splitting them across several districts. These practices are examples of "packing" and "cracking," respectively.
- See also: Redistricting
Federal law stipulates that all districts, whether congressional or state legislative, must meet two primary criteria.
- Equal population: According to All About Redistricting, federal law "requires that each district have about the same population: each federal district within a state must have about the same number of people [and] each state district within a state must have about the same number of people." Specific standards for determining whether populations are sufficiently equal vary for congressional and state legislative districts. See below for further details.
- Race and ethnicity: Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 states that district lines must not dilute the voting power of racial or ethnic minority groups. This provision "applies whether the denial is intentional, or an unintended end result. Courts essentially test whether the way that districts are drawn takes decisive political power away from a cohesive minority bloc otherwise at risk for discrimination."
In most states, the legislatures are primarily responsible for both congressional and state legislative redistricting. However, reformers argue that partisan legislators are incapable of establishing fair district lines because they have a vested interest in the outcome. Instead, reformers advocate using different redistricting processes, including independent commissions or electronic methods. Opponents of these reforms argue that alternative processes are less accountable to voters, subject to partisan abuse, and perhaps unconstitutional.
In addition to the federal criteria noted above, individual states may impose additional requirements on redistricting. Common state-level redistricting criteria are listed below. Typically, these requirements are quite flexible.
- Contiguity refers to the principle that all areas within a district should be "physically adjacent." A total of 49 states require that districts of at least one state legislative chamber be contiguous. A total of 23 states require that congressional districts meet contiguity requirements.
- Compactness refers to the general principle that "the distance between all parts of a district" ought to be minimized. The United States Supreme Court has "construed compactness to indicate that residents have some sort of cultural cohesion in common." A total of 37 states "require their legislative districts to be reasonably compact." A total of 18 states impose similar requirements for congressional districts.
- A community of interest is a "group of people in a geographical area, such as a specific region or neighborhood, who have common political, social or economic interests." A total of 24 states require that the maintenance of communities of interest be considered in the drawing of state legislative districts. A total of 13 states impose similar requirements for congressional districts.
- A total of 42 states require that state legislative district lines be drawn to account for political boundaries (e.g., the limits of counties, cities and towns). A total of 19 states require that similar considerations be made in the drawing of congressional districts.
According to Article 1, Section 4, of the United States Constitution, the states and their legislatures have primary authority in determining the "times, places and manner" of congressional elections. Congress may also pass laws regulating congressional elections. Section 4 explicitly vests the authority to regulate congressional elections with the legislative branches of the states and the federal government and not with the executive or judicial branches.
|“||The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing Senators.||”|
—United States Constitution
Article 1, Section 2, of the United States Constitution stipulates that congressional representatives be apportioned to the states on the basis of population. There are 435 seats in the United States House of Representatives. Each state is allotted a portion of these seats based on the size of its population relative to the other states. Consequently, a state may gain seats in the House if its population grows, or lose seats if its population decreases, relative to populations in other states. In 1964, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Wesberry v. Sanders that the populations of House districts must be equal "as nearly as practicable."
The equal population requirement for congressional districts is strict. According to All About Redistricting, "any district with more or fewer people than the average (also known as the 'ideal' population), must be specifically justified by a consistent state policy. And even consistent policies that cause a 1 percent spread from largest to smallest district will likely be unconstitutional."
State legislative redistricting
The United States Constitution is silent on the issue of state legislative redistricting. In the mid-1960s, the United States Supreme Court issued a series of rulings in an effort to clarify standards for state legislative redistricting. In Reynolds v. Sims, the court ruled that "the Equal Protection Clause [of the United States Constitution] demands no less than substantially equal state legislative representation for all citizens, of all places as well as of all races." According to All About Redistricting, "it has become accepted that a [redistricting] plan will be constitutionally suspect if the largest and smallest districts [within a state or jurisdiction] are more than 10 percent apart."
- See also: State-by-state redistricting procedures
In 37 states, legislatures are primarily responsible for drawing congressional district lines. Seven states have only one congressional district each, so congressional redistricting is not necessary. Four states employ independent commissions to draw the district maps. In two states, politician commissions draw congressional district lines.
State legislative district lines are primarily the province of the state legislatures themselves in 37 states. In seven states, politician commissions draw state legislative district lines. In the remaining six states, independent commissions draw the lines.
If the state legislature is unable to approve a state legislative redistricting plan, a backup commission must draw the lines. This backup commission, established in 1948, comprises the following members:
- Lieutenant governor
- Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives
- Attorney general
- State comptroller
- Commissioner of the General Land Office
Texas comprises 36 congressional districts. The map to the right depicts Texas' congressional district lines as drawn following the 2010 United States Census. The table below lists Texas' current House representatives.
State legislative maps
Texas comprises 31 state Senate districts and 150 state House districts. State senators are elected every four years in partisan elections. State representatives are elected every two years in partisan elections. To access the current state Senate district map, click here. To access the current state House map, click here.
There are conflicting opinions regarding the correlation between partisan gerrymandering and electoral competitiveness. Some critics contend that the dominant redistricting methods result in a lack of competitive elections. Jennifer Clark, a political science professor at the University of Houston, said, "The redistricting process has important consequences for voters. In some states, incumbent legislators work together to protect their own seats, which produces less competition in the political system. Voters may feel as though they do not have a meaningful alternative to the incumbent legislator. Legislators who lack competition in their districts have less incentive to adhere to their constituents’ opinions."
Some question the impact of redistricting on electoral competitiveness. In 2006, Emory University professors Alan Abramowitz, Brad Alexander and Matthew Gunning wrote, "[Some] studies have concluded that redistricting has a neutral or positive effect on competition. ... [It] is often the case that partisan redistricting has the effect of reducing the safety of incumbents, thereby making elections more competitive."
The individuals involved in redistricting must balance the desire for increased competitiveness with other principles that might conflict with that goal, such as compactness, contiguity, and maintaining communities of interest. For instance, it may at times be impossible to draw a competitive district that is both compact and preserves communities of interest.
In 2011, James Cottrill, a professor of political science at Santa Clara University, published a study of the effect of "non-legislative approaches" to redistricting on the competitiveness of congressional elections. Cottrill found that "particular types of [non-legislative approaches] encourage the appearance in congressional elections of experienced and well-financed challengers." Cottrill cautioned, however, that non-legislative approaches "contribute neither to decreased vote percentages when incumbents win elections nor to a greater probability of their defeat."
In 2014, Ballotpedia analyzed the margins of victory in all 435 contests for the United States House of Representatives. Ballotpedia found that the average margin of victory was 35.8 percent, compared to 31.8 percent in 2012. An election is deemed competitive if it was won by a margin of victory of 5 percent or less. A total of 318 elections (73 percent of all House elections) were won by margins of victory of 20 percent or more. Only 26 elections (6 percent of the total) were won by margins of victory of 5 percent or less. See the table below for further details.
Note: The data below are provided only for informational purposes. It should be noted that there are conflicting opinions regarding the correlation between redistricting and competitiveness. A variety of factors at the local, state and federal levels can impact electoral competitiveness.
All but two of Texas' 36 elections for the United States House of Representatives were won by margins of victory of 20 percent or greater. The smallest margin of victory occurred in District 23, where Will Hurd (R) won by 2.1 percent. The largest margin of victory occurred in District 4, where John Ratcliffe was unopposed and won with 100 percent of the vote. The average margin of victory in Texas was 48.4 percent. See the table below for full details.
|Electoral margins of victory in 2014 United States House of Representatives elections, Texas|
|District||Winner||Margin of victory||Total votes cast||Top opponent|
|District 1||Louie Gohmert||54.9%||148,560||Shirley McKellar|
|District 2||Ted Poe||38.3%||150,026||Niko Letsos|
|District 3||Sam Johnson||64%||138,280||Paul Blair|
|District 4||John Ratcliffe||100%||115,085||Unopposed|
|District 5||Jeb Hensarling||70.7%||104,262||Ken Ashby|
|District 6||Joe Barton||24.7%||150,996||David Cozad|
|District 7||John Culberson||28.7%||143,219||James Cargas|
|District 8||Kevin Brady||78.6%||140,013||Ken Petty|
|District 9||Al Green||81.6%||86,003||Johnny Johnson|
|District 10||Michael McCaul||28%||176,460||Tawana Walter-Cadien|
|District 11||Mike Conaway||80.5%||119,574||Ryan Lange|
|District 12||Kay Granger||45%||158,730||Mark Greene|
|District 13||Mac Thornberry||71.5%||131,451||Mike Minter|
|District 14||Randy Weber||25.8%||145,698||Donald Brown|
|District 15||Ruben Hinojosa||10.7%||90,184||Eddie Zamora|
|District 16||Beto O'Rourke||38.3%||73,105||Corey Roen|
|District 17||Bill Flores||32.2%||132,865||Nick Haynes|
|District 18||Sheila Jackson Lee||47%||106,010||Sean Seibert|
|District 19||Randy Neugebauer||58.7%||115,825||Neal Marchbanks|
|District 20||Joaquin Castro||51.3%||87,964||Jeffrey Blunt|
|District 21||Lamar Smith||57.1%||188,996||Antonio Diaz|
|District 22||Pete Olson||35%||151,566||Frank Briscoe|
|District 23||Will Hurd||2.1%||115,429||Pete Gallego|
|District 24||Kenny Marchant||32.7%||144,073||Patrick McGehearty|
|District 25||Roger Williams||24%||177,883||Marco Montoya|
|District 26||Michael Burgess||65.3%||141,470||Mark Boler|
|District 27||Blake Farenthold||29.9%||131,047||Wesley Reed|
|District 28||Henry Cuellar||68.8%||76,136||Will Aikens|
|District 29||Gene Green||79.1%||46,143||James Stanczak|
|District 30||Eddie Bernice Johnson||81.2%||105,793||Max Koch, III|
|District 31||John Carter||32.1%||143,028||Louie Minor|
|District 32||Pete Sessions||26.4%||156,096||Frank Perez|
|District 33||Marc Veasey||73%||50,592||Jason Reeves|
|District 34||Filemon Vela||20.9%||79,877||Larry Smith|
|District 35||Lloyd Doggett||29.2%||96,225||Susan Narvaiz|
|District 36||Brian Babin||53.9%||133,842||Michael Cole|
In 2014, Ballotpedia conducted a study of competitive districts in 44 state legislative chambers between 2010 and 2012. Ballotpedia found that there were 61 fewer competitive general election contests in 2012 than in 2010. Of the 44 chambers studied, 25 experienced a net loss in the number of competitive elections. A total of 17 experienced a net increase. In total, 16.2 percent of the 3,842 legislative contests studied saw competitive general elections in 2010. In 2012, only 14.6 percent of the contests studied saw competitive general elections. An election was considered competitive if it was won by a margin of victory of 5 percent or less. An election was considered mildly competitive if it was won by a margin of victory between 5 and 10 percent. For more information regarding this report, including methodology, click here.
Note: These data are provided only for informational purposes. It should be noted that there are conflicting opinions regarding the correlation between redistricting and competitiveness. A variety of factors at the local, state and federal levels can impact electoral competitiveness.
There were four competitive elections for the Texas House of Representatives in 2012, compared to 12 in 2010. There were five mildly competitive state House races in 2012, compared to seven in 2010. This amounted to a net loss of 10 competitive elections.
|Party||As of May 2015|
|Party||As of May 2015|
Race and ethnicity
Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 mandates that electoral district lines cannot be drawn in such a manner as to "improperly dilute minorities' voting power."
|“||No voting qualification or prerequisite to voting, or standard, practice, or procedure shall be imposed or applied by any State or political subdivision to deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color.||”|
—Voting Rights Act of 1965
States and other political subdivisions may create majority-minority districts in order to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. A majority-minority district is a district in which minority groups comprise a majority of the district's total population. As of 2013, Texas was home to 15 congressional majority-minority districts.
Proponents of majority-minority districts maintain that these districts are a necessary hindrance to the practice of "cracking." Cracking occurs when a constituency is divided between several districts in order to prevent it from achieving a majority in any one district. In addition, supporters argue that the drawing of majority-minority districts has resulted in an increased number of minority representatives in state legislatures and Congress.
Critics, meanwhile, contend that the establishment of majority-minority districts results in "packing." Packing occurs when a constituency or voting group is placed within a single district, thereby minimizing its influence in other districts. Because minority groups tend to vote Democratic, critics argue that majority-minority districts ultimately present an unfair advantage to Republicans by consolidating Democratic votes into a smaller number of districts.
The tables below provide demographic information for each of Texas' congressional districts as of 2013. At that time, the population of the largest congressional district, District 22, totaled 725,946, and the population of the smallest, District 13, totaled 699,400, which represented a difference of 3.8 percent.
|Demographics of Texas' congressional districts (as percentages)|
|Source: United States Census Bureau, "2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates," accessed April 8, 2015|
|Demographics of Texas' congressional districts|
|Source: United States Census Bureau, "2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates," accessed April 8, 2015|
Redistricting after the 2010 census
Following the 2010 United States Census, Texas gained four congressional seats. At the time of redistricting, Republicans controlled both chambers of the Texas State Legislature and the governorship. The legislature approved a state legislative redistricting plan on May 23, 2011, which was signed into law by Governor Rick Perry on June 17, 2011. On June 24, 2011, the legislature approved a congressional redistricting plan, which was signed into law by the governor on July 18, 2011. Michael Barone and Chuck McCutcheon, writing for The Almanac of American Politics, described the approved congressional plan as follows:
|“||Republican legislators, and Perry, were horror-struck by the idea of “giving” Democrats any seats. In June, they disregarded their own delegation’s advice and passed their own plan to split the Metroplex’s Hispanic population six ways, stuff Austin Democrat Lloyd Doggett into a heavily Hispanic seat stretching to San Antonio, and create three new safely Republican enclaves: one in Fort Worth’s western suburbs, another in Houston’s eastern suburbs, and a third slithering along the I-35 corridor from the fringes of the Metroplex to the outskirts of Austin. The plan did create one new Democratic seat in the Rio Grande Valley. But it did so by dropping the neighboring 27th District of Republican Blake Farenthold, a fluke 2010 winner, from 73% to 49% Hispanic.||”|
—The Almanac of American Politics
A labyrinthine legal battle ensued. On September 19, 2011, the United States Department of Justice "declared the map had been drawn with discriminatory intent." Texas attorney general Greg Abbott petitioned a three-judge panel at the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., for preclearance. At the time, certain states were required under the Voting Rights Act to receive preclearance from the federal government before implementing modifications to election laws (including redistricting plans). On September 29, 2011, a federal court in San Antonio "halted the map's implementation and announced its intent to draw its own interim plan if the state did not obtain federal preclearance before the December 2011 opening of the candidate filing period." On November 8, 2011, the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals denied Abbott's request for an expedited decision, thereby setting the stage for a lengthy trial. On November 23, 2011, the San Antonio federal court issued its own interim congressional and state legislative district maps, which were intended to apply to the 2012 midterm elections. Abbott appealed this decision to the United States Supreme Court, which ordered a stay of the San Antonio court's ruling, effectively "forcing Texas to delay its primary until May."
In January 2012, the United States Supreme Court struck down the interim maps drawn by the San Antonio federal court, ruling that the court had exceeded its authority. On February 28, 2012, the San Antonio court issued a second set of interim district maps. Barone and McCutcheon described that congressional map as follows:
|“||This time, it resembled Republicans’ plan, except it created a new 66% Hispanic seat linking Dallas and Fort Worth and restored Hispanic voting strength in the 23rd District. After nearly a year and millions of dollars in court costs, the end result was nearly identical to what Republican incumbents had lobbied for in the first place: a 2-2 division of new seats. Democrats scored another pickup in November by ousting Canseco in the 23rd, for 12 of 36 seats overall.||”|
—The Almanac of American Politics
On August 28, 2012, the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals panel refused to grant preclearance to the original maps. On June 25, 2013, however, the United States Supreme issued its ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, which effectively removed the preclearance mechanism from the Voting Rights Act. As a result, the earlier "refusal to preclear Texas' maps was vacated."
On June 21, 2013, the state legislature approved a permanent congressional and state legislative redistricting plans. These new maps adhered closely to the second interim maps issued by the San Antonio federal court. On June 26, 2013, Perry signed the maps into law. Litigation surrounding Texas' congressional and state legislative district maps is ongoing.
Redistricting ballot measures
elections and campaigns
|Not on ballot|
Ballotpedia has tracked the following ballot measure(s) relating to redistricting in Texas.
- Texas Apportionment of County Representatives, Proposition 2 (1936)
- Texas County Justice and Commissioner Precincts, Proposition 1 (1908)
- Texas Legislative Redistricting Board, Proposition 2 (1948)
- Texas Reapportionment of Judicial Districts, Proposition 13 (1985)
- Texas Redistricting Commission Amendment (2015)
This section displays the most recent stories in a Google news search for the terms "Redistricting Texas."
- Some of the stories below may not be relevant to this page due to the nature of Google's news search engine.
- Redistricting in Texas after the 2010 census
- State-by-state redistricting procedures
- State legislative and congressional redistricting after the 2010 census
- Margin of victory in state legislative elections before and after the 2010 census
- Margin of victory analysis for the 2014 congressional elections
- All About Redistricting
- National Conference of State Legislatures, "Redistricting Process"
- FairVote, "Redistricting"
- The Redistricting Game
- A backup commission draws the lines in the event that the state legislature cannot approve a plan.
- All About Redistricting, "Why does it matter?" accessed April 8, 2015
- Indy Week, "Cracked, stacked and packed: Initial redistricting maps met with skepticism and dismay," June 29, 2011
- The Atlantic, "How the Voting Rights Act Hurts Democrats and Minorities," June 17, 2013
- Redrawing the Lines, "The Role of Section 2 - Majority Minority Districts," accessed April 6, 2015
- All About Redistricting, "Where are the lines drawn?" accessed April 9, 2015
- FairVote, "Redistricting Glossary," accessed April 9, 2015
- The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, "Election Regulations," accessed April 13, 2015
- Brookings, "Redistricting and the United States Constitution," March 22, 2011
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Brennan Center for Justice, "A Citizen's Guide to Redistricting," accessed March 25, 2015
- The Constitution of the United States of America, "Article 1, Section 2," accessed March 25, 2015
- All About Redistricting, "Who draws the lines?" accessed March 25, 2015
- All About Redistricting, "Texas," accessed May 7, 2015
- The Daily Cougar, "Redistricting will affect November election," October 16, 2012
- The Journal of Politics, "Incumbency, Redistricting, and the Decline of Competition in U.S. House Elections," February 2006
- Polity, "The Effects of Non-Legislative Approaches to Redistricting on Competition in Congressional Elections," October 3, 2011
- Yale Law School, The Avalon Project, "Voting Rights Act of 1965; August 6, 1965," accessed April 6, 2015
- United States Census Bureau, "2009-2013 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates," accessed April 8, 2015
- All About Redistricting, "Litigation in the 2010 cycle, Texas," accessed May 7, 2015
- Barone, M. & McCutcheon, C. (2013). The almanac of American politics 2014 : the senators, the representatives and the governors : their records and election results, their states and districts. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.