Commentary

The Texas GOP is afraid of the state’s voters & they’re rigging the system to keep seats in Congress

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Republicans know how to win elections. They stack the deck in their favor.

Nowhere is that clearer than in Texas, where the state GOP has redrawn Congressional maps that ensure Democrats control only about a third of the seats. To put it in perspective, Donald Trump won the state by fewer than six percentage points last year.

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Ever fearful of having to compete, Texas Republicans did their best to blunt the growing tendency of suburbs to go Democratic. Where Republican incumbents started to find their districts competitive, the new maps pull in rural areas that are reliably conservative.  Republicans also made sure that Democratic strongholds stay as constrained as possible, packing Democrats tightly into districts so that they don’t risk harming GOP chances in the same area.

The new maps also make sure to minimize non-white voters. Although Latinos are contributing a large part of the state’s population surge, Republicans made sure that there are even fewer Latino-majority districts than before.

“There are serious voting rights issues on the map,” Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice, told the Dallas Morning News

Republicans went to great lengths to assure their dominance–literally. They took the city of Denton, which votes Democratic, and attached it to the state panhandle 400 miles away. That shifted Denton into a district that gave Trump a 60 point margin of victory.

The new map is the end product of a drama that started earlier this year when Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session of the state legislation for redistricting. Lacking any other recourse, Democrats fled the state in July to deny Republicans a quorum, but eventually returned to the inevitable.

The new Congressional map doesn’t only guarantee more Republican control in the state. It also guarantees more extreme Republicans. By drawing districts in such a way as to guarantee Republican victories, there’s no incentive for candidates to tack to the middle for support. Instead, their greatest fear will be facing challengers from the right who brand them as insufficiently conservative.

That gives incumbents plenty of incentive to be as inflammatory–and as anti-LGBTQ–as possible. It’s no wonder that the same Texas legislators who passed the gerrymandered map also passed a vicious anti-trans measure in the same special session. 

If all of this strikes you as vaguely (or not so vaguely) illegal, it would be if Congress would pass the Freedom to Vote Act. That bill would use federal election results to judge whether the Congressional map is relatively representative. Texas fails that test by a wide margin.

But thanks to Senate Republicans, the unfairness will remain unchallenged. Today all 50 Republicans in the Senate voted to filibuster a discussion on the bill, essentially killing it without it ever being debated. The bill was the product of a compromise driven by Sen. Joe Manchin, the West Virginia Democrat who, along with Sen. Krysten Sinema (D-AZ), has been protective of the filibuster.

So how’s the working out for you, Joe?

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