Districts get major rework in first drafts

Maps maintain incumbent U.S. Rep. Ellzey’s base, but state Senate proposal splits Ellis County in half

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
A proposed first draft of a redistricting plan for the state's Senate seats. The Texas Legislature is in special session in Austin to redraw the political map using new 2020 U.S. Census figures.

The first draft of new U.S. House of Representatives and state legislative districts in Texas is out. For Ellis County, the U.S. House and state House boundaries will be mostly status quo. But for the state Senate, change is in the air.

A proposal for state Senate districts was released this week that would split Ellis County roughly along Interstate 35E. The western part of the county, including Midlothian, Red Oak and a small portion of Waxahachie, would fall under Senate District 22, which is at present represented by Republican state Sen. Brian Birdwell of Granbury. The eastern portion, which would include the rest of Waxahachie and Ennis, would be placed in District 2 and under the purview of GOP state Sen. Bob Hall of Edgewood.

The proposed District 22 is a Brazos River-centered district that stretches from Palo Pinto County to Waco and points south, with a finger reaching up into Ellis and Tarrant counties. The proposed District 2 includes all of Rockwall, Kaufman, Van Zandt and Navarro counties as well as the eastern half of Ellis and a portion of Dallas County that includes Rowlett, Sachse and Seagoville.

The plan is already creating some pushback from at least one local resident dismayed at the plan to split the county in two.

“The citizens of Ellis County beseech you to reconsider your redistricting plan,” Midlothian resident Jais Munoz wrote in public input to the state Senate redistricting committee. “We are in the midst of a crucial runoff and do not have a supportive fighter to represent us yet in Austin against this division. This would definitely be a socialism push because our votes would be flavored purple by other counties.”

A proposed first draft of a redistricting plan for the state's U.S. congressional seats. The Texas Legislature is in special session in Austin to redraw the political map using new 2020 U.S. Census figures.

While Ellis County will continue to be represented in U.S. House District 6, the character of the whole district will change greatly, from a transition suburban-to-rural district to one that is predominantly rural — and even redder — with Ellis as its population fulcrum. The new map should maintain a safe seat for recently-elected GOP Congressman Jake Ellzey.

The proposed district includes Hill, Navarro, Freestone, Anderson and the northern half of Cherokee counties, but does include a tiny portion of Johnson County (mainly around Venus) and a tiny sliver that extends into Tarrant and Dallas counties.

The Texas Legislature last week incorporated two new U.S. House seats into a proposed draft map as a result of population growth recorded by the 2020 U.S. Census, as the state’s delegation was increased from 36 to 38.

The state legislative redistricting committee proposes to add the two new districts to the Houston and Austin areas, despite growth of more than a million new residents in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area alone since the last head count in 2010.

A proposed first draft of a redistricting plan for the state's 150 House of Representatives seats. The Texas Legislature is in special session in Austin to redraw the political map using new 2020 U.S. Census figures.

For Ellis County’s state House representation, not much changes other than that the proposal gives the county a House district all to itself. The reason: The county's official 2020 Census population of about 192,000 almost perfectly aligns with the proscribed average population of state House districts. The portion of Henderson County currently assigned to District 10 would be shifted to District 4, which includes Kaufman County.

District 10 will be represented by Republican Brian Harrison, who won a special election on Tuesday to complete the unexpired term of Ellzey.

These are only the first drafts of maps, and are likely to change before they pass the Texas Legislature and are signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott.

The redistricting calendar is extremely tight this election cycle because of delays in the 2020 Census that have been blamed on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Redistricting must be done in Texas and each political subdivision before the mid-December party primary filing deadlines for 2022. The primary elections are scheduled for Saturday, March 5.