Hand inserting a piece of paper labeled "vote" into a wood box labeled "Ballot Box." The box is secured by chains

New urgency to pass voting-rights legislation aimed at Texas

© iStock - viavado
Roz Brown

(Texas News Connection) Leaders in the U.S. Senate have announced plans to vote this month on a change to filibuster rules, hoping to pass voting-rights legislation they say is needed to protect democracy.

Democrats contended since the 2020 election, Republican-led states such as Texas have passed laws that could subvert future elections. Last month, the Department of Justice sued over the state's new redistricting maps, arguing they deny Black and Latino voters an equal opportunity to participate in the voting process and elect representatives of their choice.

Dr. Richard D. Pineda, associate professor and chair of the Department of Communication at the University of Texas-El Paso, explained how drawing maps can affect the outcome of elections.

"If you can isolate a population that you think is going to lean one way politically, and it also overlaps with ethnic-identify markers, then I think you see a really tremendous impact."

The election and voting-rights package is stalled in the evenly split 50-50 Senate, and Democrats have been unable to agree over potential rule changes to reduce the necessary 60-vote threshold.

Texas' explosive population growth in the past 10 years meant it gained two new congressional districts based on census data. The state grew by nearly four million residents, with an estimated 95% of the growth due to Latino and Black residents.

Admitting "elections have consequences," Pineda nonetheless called the gerrymandering in Texas "outlandish."

"At a minimum, it means your representatives are stretched pretty thin," Pineda argued. "But in a more nefarious way it suggests that the political system is out to leverage partisanship over representation."

At the same time, Pineda is skeptical the Justice Department lawsuit against Texas will have a definitive impact. He noted the longer the legal fight is drawn out, the harder it will become to change the already-approved maps. He added, however, the lawsuit could delay Texas' March 1 primary election.