The United States has recently filed a lawsuit against the Texas redistricting plan for its congressional delegation, claiming that it violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. This is because it has the discriminatory purpose of denying or restricting the right to vote on the basis of race, color, or membership of a linguistic minority group. In order to gather information that will help the Texas Legislature make decisions on redistricting, legislative committees generally hold public hearings in the months leading up to redistricting. These hearings provide citizens with the opportunity to present relevant testimony on the impact of existing districts, local preferences for district changes, communities of interest, local voting patterns, and other issues that the legislature may consider when redrawing district lines.
Hearings also promote public knowledge about the legislative district redistricting process. Public committee hearings are also held after census data is available and during the legislative session, when redistricting bills are being considered by the committee. Under normal circumstances, the U. S.
Census Bureau delivers state population data to the president before December 31 of the census year. At this point, the number of congressional seats in each state is calculated. The detailed demographic data needed for redistricting must be delivered to the states before April 1 of the following year. This gives the Texas Legislature only 60 days to draw and adopt the boundaries of legislative districts before the end of the regular session.
Once the legislature receives the census data, it takes time to load it into the redistrict computer system, verify its integrity, and ensure that it works correctly. House of Representatives and Senate rules establish end-of-session procedures that further limit the time available to pass redistrict bills. Redistrict bills follow the same path in the legislature as other legislation. Congress and State Board of Education (SBOE) district bills can be introduced in one or both houses.
Senate and House of Representatives redistrict bills traditionally originate only in their respective houses. After final adoption by both houses, each redistricting bill is presented to the governor for approval. The governor can enact it as law, allow it to enter into force without a signed, or veto it. If a House of Representatives or Senate redistricting bill is not approved or vetoed and the legislature does not override the veto during the first regular session after publication of census data, then Section 28, Article III of the Constitution of Texas requires that a Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB) meet within 90 days after that session ends. This board is composed of five members: Deputy Governor; Speaker of House; Attorney General; Comptroller of Public Accounts; and Commissioner of General Land Office.
It was created by a constitutional amendment in 1951 in part to provide legislators with an incentive to redistrict after each federal decennial census. If a congressional or SBOE bill is not approved or vetoed and its veto is not overridden, then the governor can call for a special session to consider it. The plans enacted or those adopted by LRB are presented to Texas Secretary of State and take effect for next primary and general elections, subject to any judicial action if a lawsuit challenging them is filed. Before elections are held under new districts, counties divided by Congress must change their electoral district boundaries to adapt to new district lines. The state constitution requires that a candidate for state legislative office have resided for at least one year before general elections in district they seek to represent. The Legislative Council of Texas provides technical and legal support to Texas Legislature for redistricting. Redistricting is an important process that affects all Texans and should be taken seriously by all involved parties.
It is essential that citizens understand how this process works so they can make informed decisions about their representatives and their districts. It is also important for legislators to understand how this process works so they can make informed decisions about how best to represent their constituents.