Census data likely gives Texas more US House seats

December 21, 2010

By APRIL CASTRO Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas — A heavy influx of new residents, many of whom are Hispanics, has Texas poised to gain more congressional seats than any other state, and Tuesday’s announcement of the exact number begins what figures to be a politically divisive process on how to divvy them up.

The big question to be answered when the U.S. Census Bureaureleases key population figures for reapportionment is whether the state will get three or four new seats in the U.S. House. Either way, the second-largest state is expected to have the nation’s highest gains.

Although Texas Republicans have fortified their already strong hold on the state Legislature with landslide victories in the November election, they won’t have unchecked authority to draw the state’s congressional map to benefit the GOP.

Texas is one of the states whose redistricting plans require “pre-clearance” by federal authorities under the Voting Rights Act, which aims to protect the interest of minority voters.

Because much of the population growth came among Hispanics, who tend to favor Democrats, experts expect one or two of the new seats will need to be Hispanic-leaning to clear the federal law.

Republicans can be expected to target the only two districts still represented by white Democrats for those new minority seats — Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin and Rep. Gene Green of Houston, said Nathaniel Persily, a political science professor and redistricting expert at Columbia Law School.

That means Republicans would only draw themselves one or two new GOP-leaning seats, he said.

But, that debate is far from settled.

Some Republicans in Congress are still pushing for three or four new GOP seats, said Rep. Aaron Pena, a Republican from the Rio Grande Valley. He said he believes Hispanics should have an opportunity to win a minimum of two seats.

One of those, he predicts, will come from Dallas, where the Hispanic population is bigger than that of the Valley.

“The Hispanic community in Dallas has exploded in population numbers and has no Hispanic-leaning districts, whereas the Valley has three with a smaller Hispanic population,” he said.

The environment is ripe for racial tensions.

“Anytime any one community grows, others may be diminished,” Pena said. “And absent enlightened leadership, it could lead to some political tensions.”

To read more, visit: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/7348526.html

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