AUSTIN (KXAN) — This election will not be a normal election. The November 2020 elections will decide who you vote for over the next decade and for the first time in more than a decade, Democrats could gain a beachhead in state government.
Every 10 years, the United States government counts who lives where, all across the country. It’s called the U.S. Census. State lawmakers use that information to reconfigure their legislative maps.
This is complicated, but it’s a huge deal. It will decide which state lawmakers and which member of Congress you will vote for.
The political party that is in charge of that process will use it to consolidate, reinforce or gain more power. Texas legislative maps are always mired in lawsuits over what kind of people won and what kind of people lost.
One big difference this year is the Supreme Court in multiple rulings allowed one political party to hurt the other as long as they don’t unfairly target minority populations in the process.
Democrats have a chance to take over the Texas House. Their victory or loss will decide whether Republicans dictate the entire redrawing process or if Democrats get half the say.
Ross Ramsey, the executive editor of the Texas Tribune, says Texas hasn’t been close to this since a Democratic wave almost took the House in 2008.
“They’re straight-up partisan. These debates are about elections: drawing maps from which places people will be elected. The old line is people are drawing maps to chose their own voters and that’s right,” Ramsey said. “They’re looking at the maps and you’re an incumbent and you’re saying ‘I want my map to look like this. I want this neighborhood. I don’t want that neighborhood. I’m unpopular on that street. I’m unpopular over there, but I’m popular over here.’ And it’s 181 members of the legislature all doing that at the same time. So, it’s a food fight.”
This is one reason why Texas is a major national battleground as well.
“The national parties are going to be playing in Texas and even in state House elections in a way that they don’t normally do,” Ramsey said. “So you may see more money and more mail in your mailbox and more stuff on your TV screen in the 2020 elections than you’re used to.”
Democrats flipped 12 seats in 2018, and Republicans want them back, especially since Democrats are now only 9 seats away from running the show in the House. There are nearly 20 districts that voted for the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Beto O’Rourke or were 5 percentage points away or less. Most of those are in the Dallas-Fort Worth or Houston area. Republicans want to win back the 12 seats they lost.
Now, the most important voters in the state are in the suburb counties: Hays, Williamson, Tarrant, Collin, Denton and Fort Bend.
State power will swing on those elections.