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Texas Republicans found another way to empower the white vote

It was never about Trump’s “big lie;” it was about Trump’s “big loss.”
Image: People waiting in line to vote.
People wait in line to cast their ballots for the upcoming presidential election as early voting begins in Houston, Texas, U.S., Oct. 13, 2020.Go Nakamura / Reuters

Last week, the GOP-controlled Texas Legislature approved new maps redrawing congressional and state legislative districts that effectively carve out districts to hold on to conservative white power.

Texas has seen first-hand the connection between its state’s changing demographics and voting results.

In likely terrifying news for many members of the state’s Republican Party, the 2020 census reported that over the past decade 95 percent of the state's population growth has come from people of color. This means Texas’ white population is now the minority, at 39.8 percent of the population, while the Hispanic, Black and Asian populations total nearly 57 percent. (Hispanic 39.3 percent, Black 11.8 percent and Asian 5.7 percent.)

Texas has seen first-hand the connection between the state’s changing demographics and voting results. In 2012, presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the Lone Star state by nearly 16 points over Barack Obama. In 2016, Donald Trump won, but only by 9 points. Come the 2020 election, Trump’s victory in Texas was barely over 5 percent. You don’t need to have a Ph.D. in mathematics to get that these numbers put Texas Democrats closer to winning statewide elections for the first time since 1994. (The last time a Democratic presidential candidate won Texas was Jimmy Carter in 1976.)

The brutal truth is that the reason Texas and other GOP statesenacted 33 laws in 19 states since January to make it harder to vote was never about Trump’s “big lie.” It was about Trump’s “big loss.” Republicans are freaking out that people who don’t look like most of them could soon be in charge. Consequently, they're apparently using any means to preserve that power.

The Texas GOP drafted the new voting districts to “shrink the number of districts in which eligible Hispanic and Black voters can realistically sway election outcomes,” as The Texas Tribune noted. By way of “elaborately manipulated lines to create district boundaries,” they reduced from eight to seven the districts that are majority Latino and reduced the districts where Black residents make up the majority of voters from one to zero.

In a central Texas House district in Bell County that had been trending blue (Black and Hispanic populations were nearly equal to the white population there), the district was redesigned into a doughnut-like configuration that effectively “segregated” the Black and Hispanic communities to dilute their political strength.

In the suburbs of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, which also has been trending blue in recent years, the party redesigned two congressional districts, creating two new majority white districts designed to more easily elect Republicans to both congressional seats.

This is the first redistricting since the Voting Rights Act was gutted in 2013 by the Republican-controlled Supreme Court.

Representatives of the Texas GOP claim that race had nothing to do with the mapping, with one leading state senator declaring that they “drew these maps race blind.” Sure they did. Just like last month when the state party enacted new voter suppression measures that just happened to ban 24-hour and drive-thru voting that had been implemented in 2020 in Harris County — where President Joe Biden defeated Trump. Guess who used those two methods of voting the most? Black and Hispanic voters. And the Texas GOP knew that when it passed its recent voter suppression law.

The reason the party can be so brazen in its efforts to suppress the vote of people of color is because this is the state's first redistricting since the Voting Rights Act was gutted in 2013 by the Republican-controlled Supreme Court in the infamous Shelby County v. Holder decision. Ten years ago, the Texas GOP would’ve needed “pre-clearance” before these new voting maps could go into effect — same for its voter suppression measures. But with that key part of the VRA gutted — and with a 6-to-3 Republican majority on the Supreme Court — the GOP is going full throttle in its efforts to maintain white supremacy.

Thankfully, various groups have already filed lawsuits against the Texas governor and other GOP officials arguing that the new voting maps are unconstitutional because they are racially discriminatory. Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which joined in that lawsuit, stated, “The maps are typical of that long-standing and unique record of disregard for Latino civil rights.”

If you want to help end the Texas GOP’s political segregation — and to prevent other Republican-controlled states from mimicking it — your best hope has been to enact the Freedom to Vote Act, which would not only create national, uniformed standards for voting but also end partisan gerrymandering.

Unfortunately, on Wednesday all 50 Republican Senators used the filibuster to block even a debate on the bill. The question now is, will Senate Democrats create a carve-out to the filibuster needed to pass this bill to preserve our democracy, or will they allow the GOP to create even more political apartheid states across our country? Those are truly the stakes.