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Texas Lawmakers Gear Up for Redistricting

The time has come again to redraw Texas’ districts. Once state population block-level and demographic data become available, the legislature will reconvene in a Special Session, likely in October, to propose new boundaries.

Redistricting is the process of redrawing district boundaries to guarantee equal voter representation through equal, or equivalent, population counts. Many state and federal officials represent districts that are intended to reflect equalized populations. Therefore, their sizes and shapes must be redefined every 10 years to reflect population growth or decline and other demographic changes.

By law, the federal government is required to conduct a decennial count of the U.S. population, essentially determining an estimate of how many people live in the U.S. and who lives where. In addition to determining how many congressional seats each state is entitled to every 10 years, Census data is also used to allocate federal government resources and grants and is the basis for important government and academic research.

Texas has 36 congressional districts, 31 state senate districts, and 150 state house districts. The 2020 Census is likely to increase Texas’ representation in Congress, with the Lone Star State expected to pick up two additional congressional seats. After the 2010 U.S. Census data was considered, Texas was appropriated with four new congressional seats. The Texas Legislature has a fixed number of seats in both houses. While Texas’ legislative districts change every 10 years, the total number of lawmakers does not.

Texas has been growing rapidly for decades, with a population now estimated at more than 29 million. According to the State Comptroller, from 2010 through 2018, the number of Texans rose by 14.1%, more than double the national growth rate of 6%. Between 2017 and 2018, Texas added more than 1,000 residents a day.

While the U.S. Census Bureau released the topline apportionment numbers on April 26, the release of the more granular redistricting data will be delayed until late summer. The Bureau was required to send the 2020 population data to statehouses by April 1, 2021, but the pandemic caused the Bureau to extend its timeline to conduct the count and restructure its procedures. Additionally, the process was delayed due to the Trump administration’s legal battle to get the now-blocked citizenship question included on 2020 census forms.

Census officials have said they aim to get every state that dataset by August 16 and no later than September 30. The Texas Legislature will then need to reconvene for a Special Session. Redistricting legislation follows the same path as all other bills, except that the House and Senate plans traditionally originate in their respective chambers.

Redistricting committees of the Texas House and Senate began conducting public hearings on their respective plans in 2019, held several hearings during the Texas 87th Legislative Session, and will continue over the summer. The House Redistricting Committee will be meeting next week, Wednesday, July 7 at 10 a.m. in San Antonio to discuss the San Antonio region. The Committee will hear invited testimony from the State Demographer regarding population projections for Texas, with a focus on the San Antonio area. The Committee also invites testimony from the public. Members of the public who cannot attend the hearing in person may request to be invited to provide their testimony virtually by videoconference. A live video broadcast of this hearing will be available here. You can find more details here.

For more information, contact Stephanie Reyes, VP of Policy at sreyes@sachamber.org or by phone at 210-229-2162.

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