AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Four of the nation’s 10 fastest-growing municipalities are suburbs of Texas’ big cities, census data released Thursday shows, meaning the second largest state in the U.S. could play a big part in the redistricting battle for control of Congress.
Texas also grew less white and more urban over the past 10 years, following the same overall trend seen across the country.
The new data culled from the 2020 census is coming more than four months later than expected due to delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The redistricting numbers states use for redrawing congressional and legislative districts show where white, Asian, Black and Hispanic communities grew over the past decade. It also shows which areas have gotten older or younger and the number of people living in dorms, prisons and nursing homes. The data covers geographies as small as neighborhoods and as large as states.
An earlier set of data released in April provided state population counts and showed the U.S. had 331 million residents last year, a 7.4% increase from 2010. That dataset determined that Texas will pick up two additional U.S. House seats — bringing its total to 38, and two more electoral votes, for a total of 40, making it’s already large footprint on national politics even bigger.
Ballooning populations in metropolitan areas comes as many of Texas’ rural areas have shrunk, similar to other parts of the U.S.
That — plus the state’s increasingly younger and more diverse demographics — will be important elements to consider in the GOP-controlled process of redrawing the boundaries from which state and federal lawmakers are elected, according to Joshua Blank, research director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin.
“The nature of the population growth in the state and the fact that it is not evenly distributed throughout means we will have to see a lot of changes to the political maps in order to accommodate the change of the population growth,” Blank said.
Republicans hold a majority of the state’s Congressional and Statehouse seats in both chambers, and they will have full control over the redistricting process.
For now, Republicans and Democrats find themselves at loggerheads. House Democrats walked off the job more than a month ago to block voting restrictions, and that has stopped the Legislature’s work on all bills.
Rep. Jim Murphy, who leads the Texas House Republican Caucus, said the pressure is on his Democratic colleagues to come back to work, and then the state’s redistricting committee could meet.
“I really want the people of Texas to be able to participate in this process — it’s critical — but without a few more Democrats the people of Texas are going to be left out of that process,” Murphy said.
If that committee is unable to meet, Murphy said, redistricting lines would be up to the courts and taken up in the next regular legislative session, set for 2023 — after midterm congressional elections.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has said he will continue to call special sessions on voting bills until the Legislature gets the job done. He has also pointed to scheduling a special session for redistricting.
Laws also exist “to protect the equality of the vote between individuals and also to protect groups that have historically been discriminated against,” Blank said.
Drawing politically advantageous district lines is known as gerrymandering.
State Rep. Rafael Anchía, a Democrat, is chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus and a member of the House redistricting committee. He said in a statement that he called on his colleagues to “embrace diversity” in redrawing the maps.
“Gerrymandering blocks fair maps that reflect today’s Texas. Today, while Latinos make up 40 percent of the Texas population, we only represent 25 percent of the Texas House,” Anchía said.
Since 2010, Texas has grown by nearly 4 million people — roughly the entire population of neighboring Oklahoma and more than any other state in sheer numbers. Texas is now home to 29 million residents, second in size only to California.
That growth saw five Texas cities — Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio — gain 100,000 people over the past decade. Frisco and McKinney near Dallas; Conroe near Houston, and New Braunfels near San Antonio are among the 10 fastest growing cities in the U.S.
Democrats generally have fared better in growing Texas suburbs in recent elections. A recent analysis by The Associated Press showed that a decade ago, Republican politicians used census data to draw voting districts that gave them a greater political advantage in more states than either party had in the past 50 years.
Acacia Coronado is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.