By Tony Farkas
AUSTIN — While San Jacinto County retains its representation in the Texas Legislature, population changes in the state means changes to district boundaries.
Rep. Trent Ashby of Lufkin still has House District 57, and Sen. Robert Nichols still represents the county from Senate District 3. However, the borders of those districts will look different, should the Legislature approve the plans.
Ashby’s district as it stands now is comprised Angelina, Houston, Leon, Madison, San Augustine and Trinity counties. Under the proposed plan, the district will be redesignated 9; Leon County will become part of a recast District 13, and Madison County will become part of District 12, currently represented by Kyle Kacal.
In his column of Oct. 7, Ashby said that while he was pleased and excited about the new House district, but was disappointed not to keep Leon and Madison counties after months of advocating for them.
He also said that he intends to run for re-election in the new district.
“For now, the proposed map will go through the public hearing process and be subject to amendments, both in committee and on the House floor, before we know for certain the makeup of our legislative districts for the next decade,” he said.
On the Senate side, District 3 is currently comprised of 18 counties, of which San Jacinto is one, and part of Montgomery County. The proposed plan will move Houston County into a neighboring district, and swapping with District 4 the part of Montgomery County for a portion of Jefferson County.
There are 31 Senate Districts in Texas, and based on the 2020 Census, each district must have a population of as near 940,178 people as possible. For the House, there are 150 districts, and each district must have a population of as near 194,303 people as possible.
According to the Texas Legislative Council redistricting website, the federal constitution calls for redistricting of congressional seats according to population following a Census. Reapportionment is the allocation of a set number of districts among established units of government.
On April 26, 2021, the United States Census Bureau reported results of congressional reapportionment from the 2020 Census. According to these results, Texas will add two new congressional districts for a total of 38 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives for the 118th Congress.
That redistricting will continue down to any entity, such as city, county or school board, that elects representatives based on districts.
Before elections are held under the new districts in counties that are split under the newly adopted plans, counties and the SBOE must change their voting precinct boundaries to conform with the new district lines.
The state constitution requires a candidate for state legislative office to have resided for at least one year before the general election in the district the candidate seeks to represent.
Redistricting bills follow the same path through the legislature as other legislation. Congressional and State Board of Education (SBOE) district bills may be introduced in either or both chambers; senate and house redistricting bills traditionally originate only in their respective chambers. Following final adoption by both chambers, each redistricting bill is presented to the governor for approval. The governor may sign the bill into law, allow it to take effect without a signature, or veto it. If the house or senate redistricting bill fails to pass or is vetoed and the veto is not overridden by the legislature during the first regular session after the census data is released, the Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB) is required to meet. If the congressional or SBOE bill fails to pass or is vetoed and the veto is not overridden, the governor may call a special session to consider the matter.
Enacted redistricting plans or those adopted by the LRB are filed with the Texas secretary of state. The plans adopted, in most cases, become effective for the following primary and general elections, subject to any judicial action if a lawsuit challenging a plan is filed.