Fred Hartman

Predictions often come back to haunt you, but it seems to me like federal judges might end up redrawing some of the new Texas House, Senate and Congressional districts.

Republicans in the Texas Legislature have the majority in both houses, and it’s expected for them to have an advantage after redistricting. But they’re giving themselves a huge advantage for the next 10 years.

Perhaps the Republican plan is the first round of negotiating with the courts as redistricting lawsuits are already starting to be filed.

The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund and Educational Fund was the first out of the gate, claiming the plan dilutes Hispanic voting strength. They point out that half of the growth in Texas since the 2010 federal census has been from Hispanics.

However, an increasing number of Texas Hispanics voted Republican in last year’s election. Texas Monthly magazine did a recent cover story about Hispanic voters, pointing out they’re not a monolithic block of the Democratic party.

If you look at some of the redrawn lines around Fort Bend County, they get mighty squiggly and look like gerrymandering, which means arranging a territory into election districts that gives one political party an unfair advantage in elections.

The courts are supposed to prohibit gerrymandering, but we all know it happens to one degree or another after every new census comes out, regardless of the party in power.

For example, let’s take a look at the newly drawn House District 85. State Rep. Phil Stephenson currently holds that seat, but his residence in the Del Webb community in Richmond will be drawn out of it, as will Jackson County to the south. It also adds Waller, Colorado and Fayette counties.

But if you’ve seen the map we’ve previously published in the Herald, the weird part is that the new District 85 curls around from a narrow strip near Damon and comes back into the east of Fort Bend County in the Sienna Plantation area.

It’s hard to tell exactly how far that narrow strip is across, but it looks tiny. I can’t decide if I’d need a pitching wedge or a three-wood to hit a golf ball across it.

Furhter, Jacey Jetton’s state District 26 and Gary Gates’ state District 28 were drawn more solidly Republican, and District 76 was moved from El Paso to East Fort Bend.

In the Texas Senate, District 18, which is held by Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, looks like a quirky piece on a jigsaw puzzle. On its eastern boundary, it goes around Sugar Land and shoots up north to surround College Station on both sides, but doesn’t include College Station.

Sen. Joan Huffman, the Republican in District 17, will now cover part of Fort Bend County, as well. Her new district may be the strangest as it cuts up through a narrow stretch in Fort Bend around District 18 and up into Waller County. Once again, it looks like a complex piece on a jigsaw puzzle.

In Congress, Troy Nehls’ District 22 has been drawn to be more Republican than before. Don’t look for another challenge from Democrat Sri Kulkarni here. Under the new map, former President Donald Trump would’ve polled 57.3 percent of the vote in 2020 instead of 49.7 percent in the old District 22.

Under the new map, U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston will also see her District 7 come into Fort Bend from West Houston, and it will be solidly Democratic. According to the Texas Tribune, President Joe Biden would’ve won the new district by 30 percent.

The redistricting maps must be sorted out for the 2022 elections, but don’t expect what’s been passed to be the last word. It’s likely the courts will have a final say about the finished product.

Reach Fred Hartman at fbh@hartmannews.com.

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