The first draft of a new Texas House map gives El Paso County less representation in the state Legislature’s lower chamber and pits two lawmakers who refused to end House Democrats’ quorum break against each other.
The proposal by Texas Republicans, who have majorities in the Texas House and Senate, removes House District 76, currently held by state Rep. Claudia Ordaz Perez. The area she represents would become part of state Rep. Lina Ortega’s House District 77.
Both lawmakers held out on returning to Austin for the summer’s second special session, even after lawmakers secured enough members to vote on legislation, including the election bill Democrats opposed.
“This is a direct attack on our border community and weakens the representation of minorities in the Texas Legislature,” Ortega said in a statement.
Ortega announced she was running for a third two-year term on Sept. 27. Ordaz Perez, a freshman lawmaker, made her reelection plans clear following Thursday’s release of the revised map.
“The proposed redistricting map affirms a long-standing practice by Republicans and Democrats in the Texas House — that those who sell out their values, their party and their constituents, get rewarded,” Ordaz Perez said in a statement. “This proposal pits the two Hispanic female Representatives from El Paso who did not waver in their recent fight for voting rights.”
“I refuse to sell out my values or those of the people I represent for political gain,” her statement continued. “Let me be absolutely clear — I fully intend to return to the Texas House in the next legislative session to fight for the people of El Paso.”
El Paso has had five members in the Texas House of Representatives since the 1980s, but the county’s slowing growth rate has made that number difficult to maintain under redistricting. Districts are redrawn every 10 years after the U.S. census.
El Paso County’s population grew by about 8%, about half of the state’s growth rate, according to 2020 census results.
The redrawn boundaries shrink El Paso’s three remaining House seats. State Reps. Joe Moody, Art Fierro and Mary González, D-Clint, would lose parts of their districts to House District 74, a huge seat that currently stretches from the El Paso-Hudspeth county line to the edge of Webb County. District 74 would include Fort Bliss, El Paso International Airport and parts of the county above Highway 82, similar to Republicans’ first draft of a new congressional map.
The district is currently held by Democrat Heriberto “Eddie” Morales Jr. of Eagle Pass. Previously, Democrat Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez, also of Eagle Pass, held the seat for eight years.
El Paso County would make up only 26% of District 74 under the GOP proposal. Under Texas redistricting rules, lines could have been drawn to allow El Paso County to have four complete districts and 24.3% to 70% of the population in a fifth district.
In a statement, Moody said the El Paso delegation submitted a proposal earlier this month that included four seats “entirely within” the county and “a fifth majority El Paso seat to keep our county’s interests centered.”
Moody recognized that the county doesn’t have the population needed to sustain five seats, but said the recent census figures don’t reflect the region’s true population. The census “was politicized at both the state and national levels, which led to significant undercounting in communities like ours that are already known as ‘hard to count’ populations,” he said in a statement. “So while there’s no shortcut around the challenges we’re facing now, those challenges weren’t created by accident.”
The proposal would increase Republicans’ majority in the House. Under the new map, 86 of the state’s 150 districts would have gone to former President Donald Trump in 2020, up from 76, according to a Texas Tribune analysis.
The initial boundary proposals are expected to go through multiple revisions before being approved by the Texas House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.
The House Committee on Redistricting will hear public testimony on the proposed map Monday.
Cover photo: Texas State Capitol House chamber in Austin, Texas. Photo courtesy Niagara, Wikimedia Commons; no changes were made to this image.