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State legislatures across the U.S. eagerly await new census data that would impact the redrawing of congressional district lines. One state that has a lot at stake is Texas, which is gaining two congressional seats due to population growth largely fueled by communities of color. But they may not be the ones benefiting from the redistricting fight. NewsHour's Lisa Desjardins and Daniel Bush report.
State legislatures across the country eagerly await new census data that would affect the redrawing of congressional district lines.
One state that has a lot at stake is Texas.
Lisa Desjardins has more.
The Lone Star State is gaining two congressional seats thanks to population growth, largely fueled by communities of color.
But they may not be the ones benefiting from the redistricting fight currently under way.
Covering this is our political reporter, Daniel Bush. He is in Houston.
Dan, right off the top, tell us exactly how this redistricting very hot fight is playing out.
Well, Lisa, Republicans are driving the bus here. That's because they control the state legislature.
So this is the basic timeline. Sometime later this summer or early fall census will release community level date that shows us where the population growth is. But we know that, here in Texas, that is the Houston area, Dallas-Forth Worth, as well as Austin.
Republicans will convene a special legislative session. They will draw new lines. They only have two meet two basic criteria. Number one, these new districts have to be the same side, roughly 770,000 or so voters. And, number two, they can't discriminate against voters based on race, color or ethnicity.
Once those lines are drawn, Democrats say they are prepared for a legal challenge that may push this into next spring. And, most likely, we're not going to have new district lines until the spring, at the earliest, of 2022, ahead of the midterm cycle.
I mean, meanwhile, you have been going to these booming areas responsible for these two new congressional seats. What does this redistricting fight mean for the voters there?
That's such a good question.
Redistricting is so wonky and difficult to wrap your head around. It helps to look at a concrete example. Fort Bend County is a sort of microcosm of what's happening around the country. It's a fast-growing suburban area right outside of Houston. This was Republican country for years. It was represented in Congress by Tom DeLay, a face of the Republican Party, but has grown more moderate and more diverse with fast-growing Asian American, Black and Latino communities there.
And, as a result, the politics are changing. Republicans there see that. They understand how these communities are changing and its effect on the landscape there. Here is the mayor of Stafford, Texas.
Cecil Willis, Mayor of Stafford, Texas: When I first got here, it was totally an agrarian community. Entire East Fort Bend County was. Tremendous change.
And what you can see from speaking to Republicans is the sense that it is harder and harder, when they look at how to carve up these districts and find Republican votes, to find those votes, because, increasingly, these are Democratic areas. Joe Biden, President Biden, won Fort Bend County by 10 points last year.
On the other side, Lisa, Democrats are looking at this process sort of from the outside looking in, their party out of power. They don't have a lot of control, but they do feel that they're responsible for this growth. And they do want more political representation.
Here is Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George, the executive of the county.
Judge K.P. George, Fort Bend County, Texas:
My county is benefiting from people like me. But when it comes to the seat at the table, we don't have it.
And so you see there Democrats are wary about this process and gearing up for what will probably be a pretty tense partisan redistricting fight.
This is fascinating and also important.
Congress is on the ballot next year. What's the political stakes nationally for all this in Texas?
Republicans only need to pick up five seats to win back control of Congress. So they look at Texas as a place where they can gain a couple of seats. It's very important.
And then, of course, nationally, what the census showed us, Lisa, is that states in the Northeast are losing population. People are moving to the South, the Southwest. And those areas, which used to be Republican states, Republican strongholds, are becoming more and more competitive.
So the landscape is shifting.
Our Dan Bush in Houston, thank you.
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