87th Texas Legislature

Texas Lawmakers Begin Redistricting Talks, Await Census Data

The Senate Special Committee on Redistricting met Monday

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As Texas lawmakers convene in Austin for the state's 87th legislative session, they are faced with a mounting to-do list, including tackling coronavirus-related issues and a budget deficit.

To complicate things further, it's also a redistricting year, and Republicans are in control of both chambers.

“The history of redistricting in Texas going all the way back, certainly through the 20th century, is that the dominant party uses the process to try to enhance their electoral prospects and the other party whines," SMU political science professor Cal Jillson said. "That’s what we are going to see again this year.”

Based on census numbers, lawmakers will redraw districts for the U.S. Congress, the state Senate and House, and other offices. Lawmakers will meet -- the Senate Special Committee on Redistricting met Monday -- and there will be public input.

According to Jonathan Neerman, who was the Dallas County Republican Party Chairman during part of the last redistricting year in 2011, there will also be a lot of discussion between lawmakers.

“You will see Republicans handing off parts of their districts that don't favor them to Democrats, and democrats will gladly take those areas and hand Republicans back areas that don't help them," he said. "So there will be a lot of negotiating. It is really bipartisan in that there is a lot of horse-trading that goes on between the state (representatives)."

Texas stands to gain congressional seats because of population growth, but this round of redistricting is a little different.

Census numbers have been delayed due in part to COVID-19, so lawmakers have started discussions without the new data. They could be forced to meet in a special session when census data becomes available.

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