Learn about redistricting
Redistricting [ ree-dis-trikt-ing ] (noun)
The process of dividing (or organizing) an area into new political districts, as for administrative or electoral purposes.
How does redistricting affect me and my community?
Every 10 years, after the census, Texas state legislators gather to redraw our congressional and state legislative district boundaries. The legislators are tasked with ensuring that these districts are drawn fairly and with transparency so that the new districts have nearly equal populations and do not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity.
Unfortunately, in every redistricting cycle in the last half-century, Texas has been found to have intentionally discriminated against people of color or violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A federal court found intentional discrimination in the last round of redistricting in 2011 and highlighted a secret process and the exclusion of minority and public input during the process.
This typical closed-door process with backroom deals between politicians undermines democracy. Instead of voters picking politicians, you end up with politicians picking their voters. Texas is one of the most gerrymandered states in the country.
Redistricting impacts every aspect of our lives. As a practical matter, it determines which politicians get to vote on the issues each of us care about, from healthcare, to education, to immigration, and beyond. When politicians pick their voters, they have no incentive to be responsive to the actual wishes of the people, and we end up with policies that a majority of the people oppose.
As cities, counties, and the state legislature gear up for the next round of redistricting, we want to ensure that more Texans have an opportunity to make their voices heard. The public field hearings are a vital process in the redistricting efforts to ensure fairness and transparency. By participating in a public hearing we can help put pressure on politicians to take common sense measures to draw fair maps.
How does redistricting work in Texas?
To begin this process, the Texas legislature appoints members of redistricting committees in the House and Senate, which hold field hearings around the state leading up to redistricting. When the legislature meets in 2021, the Redistricting Committees have the initial responsibility for approving maps. Most of these public field hearings in Texas will take place in the fall and winter of 2019 and 2020.
As the field hearings are wrapping up, the federal Census Bureau collects detailed data on Texas’s population, and then will release a preliminary finding on those numbers in December of 2020, followed by detailed data by April of 2021.
After the detailed census numbers are released, our Texas legislators must craft redistricting plans before the legislative session concludes at the end of May, giving them only a few months to draw new lines for Congress, the state House, and the state Senate. If the legislature fails to enact new districts for the state House and Senate, then that task falls to the state’s Legislative Redistricting Board, which is made up of the Attorney General, Comptroller, Land Commissioner, Lieutenant Governor, and the Speaker of the Texas House.
Finally, since the 1960s, state and federal courts have played an outsized role in the Texas’ redistricting process, often stepping in to invalidate maps that are drawn by the legislature, and occasionally drawing the maps themselves when the legislature fails to pass valid redistricting plans.