By Andres Cerda
It was announced this past week that Texas would receive two new congressional districts thanks to population growth over the last ten years. While this was one less than political scientists had predicted, it nonetheless brings Texas’s total number of districts to 38, the second highest total in the nation behind California’s 54.
With redistricting set to begin and the high jinx of the Texas legislature ready to ensue, we thought it’d be fun to look back on some of the most infamous districts of the outgoing map. Whether they were explicit gerrymanders or had some of the weirdest shapes, here are the five most infamous districts of the last ten years.
Texas’s 15th Congressional District (TX-15)
Vicente Gonzalez — Democrat, McAllen
This one hits a little close to home because I myself am from the Rio Grande Valley (puro 956!). While I don’t reside in the 15th district since it actually cuts across the middle of my hometown (I instead vote in the 34th district), this one has always caught my eye because of how long it is.
If you traveled from the bottom of the district (let’s say, Hidalgo, TX) to it’s northmost point (an area just east of San Marcos, TX), you would travel an incredible 292 miles at minimum and 359 miles at most! According to Apple Maps, that would take between 4 ½ to 6 hours by car! What’s craziest to me however is that while this district is thought of as a “Valley district” and has been represented by someone from the Rio Grande Valley since 1997, it mostly doesn’t cover the Rio Grande Valley. At most it covers most of Hidalgo County, but besides that it mostly just runs up the I-69C corridor and covers rural land between San Antonio and the Valley.
This district has also recently caught the eye of many Republicans due to how it voted in 2020. Vicente Gonzalez, a three-term Democrat from McAllen who won his previous two races by 20+ points, only won his 2020 race against Republican Monica De la Cruz-Hernandez by 2.9 percentage points (a margin of 6588 votes!). With redistricting coming up, it’ll be very interesting to see how the Republican State Legislature redraws the 15th District to make it more friendly for Republican candidates.
Texas’s 33rd Congressional District (TX-33)
Marc Veasey — Democrat, Fort Worth
This is one of the solidly Democratic districts in Dallas-Fort Worth, with Democrat Marc Veasey having represented the district since its inception in 2012. However what’s most notable about this district to me is it’s very odd shape. Is it an elephant with really big nostrils? Is it a body part? No one knows for sure. Oddly enough this district though it is not cited as a gerrymandered district (even though it’s odd shape would make one believe so), and it’ll be interesting to see how it changes due to Tarrant County’s Democratic shift over the last few years.
Texas’s 27th Congressional District (TX-27)
Michael Cloud — Republican, Victoria
This is the district near the Corpus Christi area, and encompasses a bunch of rural land between Austin-San Antonio and Houston. What makes this particular district interesting is its shape, as it basically looks like a submarine.
Legally speaking however, this district is significant because it was one of the districts brought up in the infamous Supreme Court case Abbott v. Perez (2018), in which the Supreme Court essentially refused to make a ruling on partisan gerrymandering. It was ruled to be unconstitutional by a panel of federal judges since they argued it displaced a Hispanic-opportunity district, but the decision was later overturned in the aforementioned Supreme Court case. It will be interesting to
Texas’s 35th Congressional District (TX-35)
Lloyd Doggett — Democrat, Austin
In terms of gerrymandering, this probably takes the cake for the most gerrymandered district in all of Texas. This district was created as a way to help ‘crack’ (or split up) the very Democratic voting base in Austin, by packing as many Democrats into this district while splitting up the rest among the other districts around Austin. This method succeeded, as all the districts aside from TX-35 are currently held by Republicans.
When this district was first created, many speculated that it was drawn in a way to get rid of Austin’s longtime representative Lloyd Doggett, who had represented the area since 1995. Doggett had originally lived in TX-25, but would now have to run in a Hispanic-majority district against a rising Hispanic star like Joaquin Castro. Castro opted to run in TX-20 however, and Doggett survived.
This district is so explicitly gerrymandered that, like the aforementioned TX-27, it was ruled unconstitutional by a panel of federal judges in 2017. However it was upheld by the Supreme Court in the infamous Abbott v. Perez (2018) case.
Many speculate however that this district could change due to Austin’s population growth and it’s heavy Democratic base. With the margins tightening up in Austin’s surrounding districts, it’s possible Republicans will create another ‘sink’ district for Democrats to help make the other districts less competitive. That all remains to be seen however.
Texas’s 2nd Congressional District (TX-2)
Dan Crenshaw — Republican, Houston
It would be virtually impossible for me to talk about weird congressional districts and NOT mention TX-2. This hook-shaped district is represented by polarizing Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-Houston), and it always seems to appear in the replies of his tweets because of it’s very peculiar shape.
TX-2 is one of the Houston districts, but it appears as if it doesn’t want ANYTHING to do with Houston since it’s shape wraps around the outer edges and barely stretches into inner Houston. The shape of this district is so weird that places like Rice University and Lake Houston (which are on opposite sides of the city) are in the same district, even though if you drove from Rice to Lake Houston most of the route wouldn’t even be in the district!
The fact that we were actually able to shape this district into a ‘G’ for our gerrymandering project just goes to show how weird this district is, and it’ll be interesting to see how it changes in the next round of redistricting.