After Republicans won control of the Texas state legislature in November 2002–for the first time in 130 years–they set their sights on gaining the majority in the Texas delegation for the U.S. House of Representatives. Following the 2002 election, Texas Democrats had a 17-15 edge in the U.S. House, even though the state’s voters voted for Republicans in congressional races by a margin of 53 percent to 43 percent. Based on the popular vote, the split between Rs and Ds should have been reversed: 17 seats held by the GOP to 15 held by Democrats.
The Texas legislature then drew a new map of congressional districts, a task usually reserved for the election cycle following a national census. In the 2004 election, which featured former Texas Governor George W. Bush atop the ballot in his bid to be reelected President, Republicans won 21 seats to the Democrats’ 11. The redistricting plan was challenged on several fronts. On June 28, 2006, for example, the Supreme Court of the United States issued an opinion that threw out one of the districts in the plan as a violation of the Voting Rights Act and ordered the lower court to produce a remedial plan.
Nevertheless, the current partisan split in Texas remains at 21-11.
The 2011 Texas redistricting cycle continues to be a politically contentious and high-stakes process. According to 2010 Census reapportionment data, Texas will gain four congressional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, more than any other state in the nation. The new seats come as a result of stark population growth in Texas over the last decade. The state’s population grew 20.6 percent from 2000 to 2010, more than double the 9.7 percent national growth over the same period. Hispanics overwhelmingly account for the largest portion of Texas’s growth. Conservative estimates show Hispanics accounting for approximately two-thirds of the state’s nearly four million new residents. While the flood of new Texans clearly means more representation in Congress, the shape that representation will take is still to be determined until the redistricting is finalized in late 2011. Both Republicans and Democrats will seek to gain as many of those four seats as politically and legally possible. As in every other state, the boundaries for congressional seats are not the only issue in the redistricting process; State Senate and House of Representatives lines will also be redrawn.
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