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7 Things to Know About Redistricting in Texas

What is redistricting?

Redistricting is the process in which members of Congress, state legislators and other county and municipal offices redraw the district boundaries in order to ensure each district has around the same number of people and that the districts accurately represent the electorate.

How often does redistricting occur?

Every ten years following the census.

Why do we redistrict?

The purpose of redistricting is to ensure that each district has about the same number of people and to make sure the state’s diverse communities are accurately represented in the legislature. In Texas, since our population is changing so drastically, redistricting is important in order to give everyone an equal voice.

Who draws the lines in Texas?

Like in most states, the Texas state legislature is tasked with re-drawing the district lines. Once the United States Census Bureau releases the census data for redistricting, the legislature gets to work on drawing the new lines. The new lines can be vetoed by the governor and this veto can be overridden by a two-thirds majority vote in each chamber. If the legislature does not redistrict before the end of the regular legislative session, the Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB) takes over. If the LRB does not adopt its own plans, the courts become involved. Also, opponents have the chance to mount any legal action they feel necessary. In Texas, since there are so many different competing political interests, redistricting almost always ends up in state or federal courts.

Who makes up the LRB?

The lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, attorney general, comptroller and land commissioner.

What is different about redistricting in 2021 than in the past?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors, the release of 2020 census data for redistricting has been delayed. According to the United States Census Bureau, the current plan is to release the data for redistricting by August 16. In a typical redistricting year, the legislature would have received the data much earlier and would have debated the new lines during their regular legislative session that ended May 31. Instead, it is believed that state lawmakers will be called back to the capitol for a special session centered around redistricting. With the data being delayed for this long, we are essentially in uncharted waters, and it will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months.

What are the potential impacts of the delayed redistricting process?

First, there is some question as to whether the legislative redistricting process in Texas can legally be done in a special session as the Texas Constitution states it must be done during the first regular legislative session following the publishing of census data. This is yet another reason why it is likely that the courts will eventually take over the process. Also, if the redistricting process isn’t complete by the 2021 primary election filing deadline, which is December 13, the primary elections will likely have to be pushed back.

For more information on redistricting and to follow the potential changes in the election timelines for Texas visit… https://redistricting.capitol.texas.gov/

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Kiley Rapier

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