AUSTIN (KXAN) — It happens every decade after census data is released and has a huge impact on elections — redistricting. The 2022 election will be the first that sees the impacts of the most recent round of redistricting following the 2020 Census.
Census data is used as a building block to redraw 429 U.S. House districts in 44 states and 7,383 state legislative districts across the U.S. The official goal is to ensure each district has roughly the same number of people. Texas gained two congressional seats as a result of the 2020 Census.
Redistricting may impact which district you’re voting in and who represents you, something Brian Smith, a political science professor at St. Edward’s University says people need to pay close attention to heading into early voting and the Primary Election. You might be surprised to learn you’re suddenly voting in different districts.
“We like to think that the person who represented us two years ago is the person that represents us now, but that’s not always the case,” Smith explained. “If you lived in Lloyd Doggett’s district one year, two years later you might not have, and then maybe moved back in.”
Smith emphasized how important it is for people to do their research before voting in this Primary Election as a result of that redistricting.
“The first thing people should do is take a look at their voter card, they get sent out before every election, and it tells you who your different districts are,” Smith said. “We know here in Texas, gerrymandering is king.”
Smith is referring to the highly political process of redrawing maps after census data is produced, where parties try to draw district lines in a way that sets their party up for success in future elections, called gerrymandering. Whoever controls the legislature, which in Texas’ case is Republicans, is going to redistrict in a way that divides and includes people that are most likely to vote for their party — securing seats.
“The result of that is your incumbents are the ones that are going to benefit most,” Smith said. “From there, a lot of the seats have become slightly more Republican, especially the newer seats.”
Smith says the gerrymandering done this year doesn’t even touch the big sweeping changes Texas saw in 2004 when Rep. Tom DeLay brought maps to session that would later be ruled unconstitutional.
“There are some changes, but it isn’t the sweeping overhaul that we’ve seen the Republicans push before only to have the federal court say no, you’ve crossed the line too far,” Smith said.