Texas redistricting: Why the person you voted for in 2020 could change next year

AUSTIN, Texas (KTRK) -- On Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott revealed details of a third special session, which will involve lawmakers making changes to redistricting.

THIRD SPECIAL SESSION IS SET

Texas lawmakers will meet for the third time in a special session this year. The special session starts on Monday, Sept. 20, at 10 a.m.

Gov. Abbott has set the agenda and said he wants lawmakers to address COVID-19 vaccine mandates and relief funding along with transgender youth in sports.

Lawmakers were tasked with those items during the previous special session, but they didn't pass legislation.

The sessions were interrupted after Texas House Democrats left the state to break quorum. The big item on the agenda is redistricting.

Lawmakers will draw new maps for Texas House, Senate, and U.S. House districts.

WILL REPUBLICANS "CRACK AND PACK" THE MAPS?

The party in control of the state legislature will have control over redistricting.

Rice University Political Science Professor Mark Jones said Republicans will use this to their advantage.

"If you're a Republican, you're ecstatic about Republicans having absolute control over redistricting," Jones explained. "If you're a Democrat, you're depressed, which is one of the reasons why Democrats worked so hard during the 2020 election to try and flip the Texas House to prevent Republicans from participating in this type of extreme gerrymandering."

Jones said Republicans will try to draw districts to help them secure more seats and put Democrats in districts they know they'll easily win.

"Cracking is cracking districts up so Democrats have 30% or 35% in the largest number of districts possible," Jones said. "Packing is trying to create as many districts as possible where Democrats have 70%, 80%, 85%, 90% of the vote because that's all wasted votes."

WHO YOU VOTE FOR WILL MOST LIKELY CHANGE

Every 10 years, districts are changed. They do so because of new U.S. Census numbers.

The process can leave people looking confused when they look at a redistricting map that's sometimes spread out and oddly shaped.

Jones said this is done on purpose to maximize votes. When the maps are changed, it could impact who represents you.

"A large majority of Texans will find themselves at least in one other district," Jones explained. "Potentially, as many as three different districts. Who represents you today may be very different in who represents you in a year and a half from now."

WHEN WILL YOU VOTE IN THE NEW DISTRICTS?

Normally, the maps are constructed during the regular session, which ended in May.

Lawmakers weren't able to work on the maps because the U.S. Census data was delayed due to the pandemic.

Democrats have filed a lawsuit challenging Republicans' ability to redistrict during a special session. However, lawmakers are moving forward.

On Tuesday, the Texas Senate held its first redistricting hearing. It lasted about an hour and a half and allowed people to testify virtually.

A few Houstonians addressed lawmakers and expressed their concerns about representation.

"Make the demographics of each district more inclusive so we don't have the blow out elections," John Jacoby testified.

Once the special session begins, redistricting special chair and State Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) said Texans will be able to view the proposed maps before they're voted on and can give testimony.

However, you can't do it virtually. You'll have to travel to Austin.

State Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) requested lawmakers hold hearings across the state. However, Huffman said it's not possible.

"We still have a pandemic, as you know, and as you know, Texas is going through a third surge at this point," Huffman explained. "We do hear about numbers up in our communities and so forth. So the logistics in bringing a 15-member committee where we'd had to find big rooms to accommodate for social distancing and such."

The goal is to have the maps complete by the end of October.

This way, the first election you'd vote in the new districts would be the primary in March.

To learn more about the state's redistricting plans, testify, or submit written testimony to lawmakers, visit the state's website.

For updates on this report, follow ABC13 reporter Nick Natario on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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