AUSTIN, Texas — State lawmakers considering a new map of Congressional districts heard from two Democratic members of Congress from the Houston area on Monday.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-18th District) and Congressman Al Green (D-9th District) are both opposed to the changes to their districts. They worry longtime communities of Black voters will be split up, and the two incumbents could be pitted against each other.
“You’ve decided to take out the downtown area, which, as I said, was formerly the residence of African Americans, Texas Southern University, and University of Houston,” said Rep. Jackson Lee. “So, I’m asking for those economic engines in the 18th congressional district to be restored.”
Rep. Jackson Lee says the new maps draw her home out of her own district and put it in Rep. Green’s district.
“It doesn’t look right for the only two persons in the state of Texas to be running against each other in a congressional district from the same party to be of African ancestry,” said Rep. Green.
Census data shows Black, Hispanic, and Asian residents made up 95% of Texas’ population growth since the last time maps were drawn in 2011.
However, this year marks the first time in decades lawmakers won’t have to get federal preclearance to ensure the maps aren’t discriminatory. A 2013 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court struck down that part of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
State Senator Joan Huffman (R-Houston) authored Senate Bill 6, which contains the proposed Congressional maps.
“As proposed, both CD 9 and CD 18 comply with the Voting Rights Act,” said Sen. Huffman. “In fact, Black citizen voting age population increases and continues to give Black voters the opportunity to elect the candidates of their choice.”
Sen. Huffman said she welcomes alternate proposals before the final vote on those new Congressional maps, which lawmakers expect to happen Friday.