The district: Texas’s 21st Congressional District stretches from Austin to San Antonio and has a rapidly growing Hispanic population. According to FiveThirtyEight, the district has a 95.2 percent chance of being represented by a Republican.
Who represents it? Chip Roy. Political strategists have described Congressman Roy as “…a Trump Republican and a Ted Cruz protégé…” because he almost always votes on party lines. His voting record shows he has supported 90 percent of the current president’s agenda. Roy wants to cut funding for reproductive health organizations such as Planned Parenthood — and even opposes abortion in every circumstance. He’s held up disaster relief funding in order to make a stand on so-called “border security.” And in the last few weeks, he’s voted against coronavirus relief, and compared stay-at-home orders to Nazi Germany.
It’s clear: Congressman Roy is another extreme politician who doesn’t feel he needs to be responsive to his constituents — only to President Trump’s agenda.
Our Shape of Things series raises awareness about the barriers to political representation in local communities and provides an opportunity to support our fight for their representation.
How did we get here? After the 2010 midterm elections, Texas politicians drowned out the will of the voters in their state as they redrew their maps. The legislature strategically cut up the vibrant, diverse city of Austin into six separate districts splitting off Democratic parts of the city and connecting them to surrounding conservative areas. Austin’s progressive voices would no longer have as big of an impact thanks to this old gerrymandering trick known as “cracking.”
Why does this matter? Austin deserves to have its voice heard. By cracking the city into six districts, Texas’s conservative map manipulators have effectively stripped Austin residents of fair representation. We must even the playing field. The decision of extreme politicians to gerrymander Texas for their own benefit shows that they would rather cheat the system than serve the communities of their diverse state.
What’s next for Texas? First, the 2020 Census. Texas is growing more progressive and more diverse by the day. And, even in 2010, data revealed that more than one-third of people living in Texas are either Hispanic or Latinx. Notably, 2.7 million more people moved to the state since the last census count and half of those new residents are Latinx. These are folks who might be at risk of an undercount — but an accurate and complete census could help form the foundation to forge a fair map in the state during the 2021 redistricting process.
Second, the 2020 elections will determine who gets to draw the maps in 2021. This election will be pivotal, and luckily, a Texas judge recently ruled that registered voters are now permitted to vote by mail in November’s election if they fear catching COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, the state’s indicted Attorney General said he was “disappointed” and argued that making it easier for people to vote would increase voter fraud. This argument is familiar. This argument is wrong. This argument serves entrenched interests in Texas, and certainly not Texas voters facing a pandemic. It’s an argument that is often used by hyper-partisan officials who want to make it harder for people to participate in the political process. It’s why AOTL is working around the clock to protect our democratic institutions. It’s one of the first and most important steps we can take to fight against hyper-partisans who try to block access to fair elections — hyper-partisans like Chip Roy who feels like his gerrymandered district gives him a free pass to say almost anything without consequence.
Texas is one of All On The Line’s target states because we have to take action to achieve fair maps. Otherwise, power-hungry incumbents like Chip Roy, backed by well-funded special interests, will continue to draw gerrymandered districts.
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