Senate Passes Redistricting Map that Threatens Davis

Fort Worth Democrat says map will trample voting rights in her district.


It wasn’t quite the 16-hour marathon redistricting debate we saw in the House. After about an hour or so of discussion today, the Texas Senate passed its own redistricting map with a 29 to 2 vote.

Senate Bill 31 by Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, alters some of the 31 senatorial districts and makes major changes to districts in Tarrant County and Travis County.

Perhaps the greatest change proposed in the redistricting bill is the chopping up of Wendy Davis’ Senate District 10. The Fort Worth Democrat would lose large parts of her district, which has become a majority-minority district over the past decade. The district would become more conservative and Republican and instantly make Davis vulnerable to a GOP challenger. The partisan makeup of the rest of the 30 districts would likely remain unchanged under the proposed map. If Davis loses reelection, Republicans would hold 20 seats in the 31-member Senate.

Under the proposed map, Davis would lose voters to Sens. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, and Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound . Davis’s district would move further north, where more Republican voters reside and where it will likely be difficult for a Democrat to win the seat.

Davis, who took issue with Seliger’s map on the Senate floor today, said she was unfairly kept out of the process. She also said the map directly violates the Voting Rights Act and will lead to voter discrimination and scrutiny in court. Her Hispanic and African American constituents, she said, would lose the ability to elect someone who truly represents their ideals. “My duty is to fight this plan,” she said. “I cannot allow the voting rights of hundreds of thousands in my district to be trampled.” Davis has said Democrats will challenge the map in court.

Since the last census in 2000, Davis’ district has become increasingly more Hispanic and African American. Currently, 28.9 percent of her senate district is Hispanic, 19.2 percent of the population is black and another 4.9 percent are other minorities. The proposed map disperses some Hispanic and African American communities into Republican districts where the majority of the population is Anglo.

Davis offered two amendments to SB 31 on the floor today, but Seliger ultimately struck both down. One would have redrawn her district to accurately reflect the majority-minority population, while the other would have created a minority district wholly in Tarrant County.

Seliger’s map originally split Travis County—currently represented by Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin—among four senators. Sens. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, and Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, would each have gotten a piece of Travis County. But an amendment today by Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, moderated the changes.  Some of Travis County, including Austin Bergstrom International Airport, was returned to Watson. Zaffirini would get part of Bexar County back in her district.

Now that the Senate has passed its redistricting map, the bill heads to the Texas House for consideration. Today the Senate tentatively passed the House’s redistricting bill with a 22 to 9 vote.

While each chamber must pass each other’s redistricting maps, they rarely alter them.