U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee of the 18th Congressional District and U.S. Rep. Al Green of the 9th Congressional District spoke at an Oct. 7 rally at Emancipation Park in Houston's Third Ward, calling for their districts to be restored in the proposed maps. The maps take huge portions of Jackson Lee's district and place them into Green's district, essentially turning the two districts into one, Jackson Lee said.
"Our districts were right together [and] needed no surgery, and by the time they got through, we were left a surgical mess," Jackson Lee said at the event. "They cut the guts out of the district."
Under the proposed maps, about 200,000 people would be removed from Jackson Lee's district, with Houston's third ward and downtown being removed entirely. Other residents would be taken from Sunnyside, east downtown, and Jacinto City.
Another 200,000 people would be added to the district from areas farther north in Houston, including Atascocita, Humble and areas farther into northwest Houston.
The downtown and east downtown areas of Jackson Lee's district would be moved to District 29, which falls under U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia. Meanwhile, Sunnyside, the Third Ward and parts of southeast Houston would be moved to Green's district.
In testimony to the Texas Senate Special Committee on Redistricting given Oct. 4, Jackson Lee said the changes were made without any consultation with her and with no clear purpose.
"This surgery seems totally without purpose," she said. "What are the ultimate results the come about ... from the 18th Congressional District, 50 years old, now being in essence destroyed?"
Jackson Lee is calling for her district to be restored in its entirety. At the Oct. 4 hearing, she took particular issue with what she called the removal of her districts "economic engines," including downtown Houston, the University of Houston and Texas Southern University. The new maps would also make it so Jackson Lee's own home would no longer be in her district, nor would her district office in Houston.
Green and Jackson Lee were joined at the Oct. 7 rally by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner as well as a collection of community activists and other local representatives, including Rep. Ron Reynolds, D-Houston, and Rep. Gene Wu, D-Houston.
Speakers at the event zeroed in on the a key statistic from the 2020 Census—that 95% of population growth in Texas over the past decade was driven by people of color—and that those gains were not at all reflected in the proposed maps.
"They are trying as best as they can to find ways to dilute the power of your vote even if they have to draw lines that will take a person out of office that was duly elected by you," Green said to the crowd gathered.
The Texas Senate would go on to approve the maps in an Oct. 8 vote. State Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, chair of the Senate's Redistricting Committee, defended the maps at the Oct. 4 hearing, saying they comply with the Voting Rights Act and that the Black voting-age population would increase in District 18.
Next, the maps will be taken up by the Texas House of Representatives for consideration.