Why experts say some political districts never change while others get constantly re-drawn

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Posted at 6:49 PM, Feb 10, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-10 22:36:58-05

SUGAR LAND, Texas — To understand the population and political change in Central Texas, it helps to understand what's happened in other parts of the state.

Let's look at Fort Bend County, a former stronghold for politicians like Tom DeLay and still a power base for Senator Ted Cruz.

To say it's seeing change seems like an understatement. Listen to what the mayor of Stafford told the PBS NewsHour last year:

"When I first got here. It was a totally an agrarian community, the entire East Fort Bend County was" said Cecil Willis.

Fort Bend County voter Renee Briggs says, the trend started years ago.

"Absolutely. I think it's probably more diverse here than when I lived in the Bay area of California. I call this 'the Berkeley of the South," said Briggs.

Fort bend became more diverse as the population spilled over from Houston. That diversity eventually showed up in the county's leadership.

According to the PBS NewsHour, "My County is benefiting from people like me, but when it comes to a seat at the table, we don't have political representation" said Fort Bend County Judge PK George, whose family comes from India. Political maps lag behind and lawmakers draw boundaries that many said don't reflect the change.

That's part of the argument behind the lawsuit the Mexican American Legal Defense Fund filed against Texas.

"When it seems to an incumbent that they might get a threat to their reelection. For example, from an emerging electorate, like the Latino community or the black community, you tend to see them manipulating the district lines to try to preserve their status quo," said Nina Perales of MALDEF.

But Republican leaders say assuming any group of voters a certain way just doesn't work in these times.

"I have this group have that particular persuasion or that group has that political persuasion, but that is a bad starting point in today's environment," said Texas State Republican Committeeman Jon Ker.

Add to that the impact of undocumented immigrants and it helps explain why MALDEF has turned watchdog when it comes to political lines.

"If undocumented are not counted, Texas will probably get one or two fewer congressional seats than would otherwise. Now some people would rather lose seats for the state that the have undocumented counted in the various districts, but it's sort of cutting off our nose to spite our face," said Al Kauffman, of the St. Mary's University School of Law, to San Antonio station KSAT.

In the meantime, voters say constant map changes in some areas and none in others leaves them a little confused.

"As an American and a Texan. I don't think we should, you know arbitrarily redraw districts to have more certain kinds of people in this area and that area, wherever because then we could win the election. I don't think that's very fair," said Briggs.

Well, think about that stability in Fort Bend County in comparison to the fundamental changes that took the core Central Texas, McClennan, Bell, and Coryell counties.

Separating them into new congressional districts and changing the landscape both here and in the Brazos Valley. That's the subject of our next report.