Late census outcomes might lead to delayed primaries in Texas in 2022, say specialists – Houston Public Media
The Texas State Capitol Building in Austin.
With the release of the latest census data, the clock is now ticking for the Texan legislature to work on redistribution for congressional and state legislative cards.
But delays in both Washington DC and Austin due to the COVID-19 pandemic could affect the timing of the Texas primaries next year, experts say.
COVID-19 has dragged the process of census reporting on government demographics. In any case, that would have forced a special session to deal with the redistribution.
However, several special sessions before the reallocation could postpone the legislative work on drawing new maps well into the fall.
“It is likely that there will be a special session in October-November this year devoted to redistribution, but those dates could be postponed,” said Cal Jillson, professor of political science at Southern Methodist University.
In an email, Brandon Rottinghaus, who teaches political science at the University of Houston, said the timeframe was ambitious due to the ongoing Democratic strike in the House of Representatives.
“This assumes that Dems come back and process the current invoices,” Rottinghaus wrote. “My guess is more (December or January) that delays are inevitable as Abbott packs the specials with more items.”
The longer it takes, the harder it will be to hold the country’s 2022 primaries in March as planned. Even after state lawmakers draw new congressional districts, they can face legal challenges that add further delays. Following the 2010 census, the 2012 primaries were postponed to May while the cards were under legal scrutiny.
In a briefing to present state-level demographics for 2020, Nicholas A. Jones, director of the Census Bureau and senior advisor on racial and ethnic research, noted that the Anglo-American majority of the state has shrunk over the past decade: The gap between the white non-Hispanic population and the Hispanic or Latin American population in Texas has shrunk to about half a percent, he said.
With Republicans in control of both houses of the state legislature, they will have a head start on congressional and state legislative maps to empower and consolidate their majorities – but the increasing diversity of the state will hamper their efforts.
“That control and ability to gerrymander is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain,” said Stephen Klineberg, a demographer and professor emeritus of sociology at Rice University. “No conceivable force in the world will prevent Houston or Texas or America from doing so in the course of the 21st century.
Klineberg said he expected Republicans – at least in the near future – to still be successful in creating maps to their advantage, but stressed that “the redistribution will be less successful this time than it was 10 years ago”.
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