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Abbott signs new Texas congressional maps into law

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday signed into law a new congressional map that would effectively shore up the GOP's power in the state while offering little in the way of new political representation to the minority communities driving much of its growth. 

The signing came a week after Republican state lawmakers gave final approval to a negotiated map that largely favors GOP incumbents and seeks to add Republican-leaning voters to suburban districts where Democrats have gained ground in recent years. 

The map also includes the two new districts the state gained after the 2020 census. Lawmakers opted to draw those districts in the Houston and Austin areas. The new districts will be used for the first time in the 2022 midterm elections. 

The redistricting process in Texas is expected to draw a series of legal challenges. One lawsuit that was filed before Abbott signed the new maps into law alleges that the new districts discriminate against voters of color. 

At issue, critics argue, is that the new maps don't reflect the role that minority communities have played in Texas's massive population growth over the past decade. Data from the 2020 census shows that people of color are responsible for 95 percent of the state's population growth. 

Instead, the new maps combine communities with large populations of people of color with districts where white voters hold significant influence. Critics of the new maps say they effectively water down the ability of voters of color to affect meaningful political change.

The new Texas maps were approved by Republicans, who control both chambers of the state legislature, against the will of Democratic state lawmakers. It's only the latest hit for Texas Democrats after GOP legislators passed an elections bill earlier this year that includes new limits on early voting hours and fresh voter ID requirements for mail-in voting.

The new congressional map signed into law on Monday also increases the number of districts that would have been carried by former President Trump. Trump won 22 of Texas's congressional districts in the 2020 election, but under the new configuration, he would have won 25. 

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