The redrawing of legislative boundaries for Texas House and Senate districts will shift in some Bexar County districts, changes experts say will help Republicans retain control of the Legislature.

This week, Texas officials finalized maps for 150 House and 31 Senate districts that will leave only a handful of districts in the whole state that are truly up for grabs, according to Jon Taylor, chair of the department of political science and geography at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

“I just don’t see these being very competitive,” Taylor said. “If you look overall at the state Senate map, especially, it’s barely competitive. State House? The same thing.”

Under a longstanding Texas norm, local politicians of both parties get the first chance to draw a map for the counties they represent. But the unraveling of that effort in Bexar County illustrates how difficult it is to set aside party differences.

In early October, the two Republicans and seven Democrats who make up Bexar County’s delegation to the Texas House had arrived at something increasingly rare in today’s political climate — a bipartisan redistricting proposal.

In an effort to craft new boundaries for legislative districts based on 2020 Census figures, the House delegation had negotiated boundary lines down to the neighborhood level.

District 122, held since 2011 by Republican Rep. Lyle Larson, was among those that needed its geographic area to shrink because of increased population density. So did District 117, represented since 2013 by Democratic Rep. Philip Cortez.

Every Bexar County House member signed an Oct. 11 letter presenting the bipartisan consensus map to the Texas House’s redistricting committee.

An amendment from Fort Bend County

Two days later, the county’s delegation was blindsided when state Rep. Jacey Jetton, a Republican from Fort Bend County south of Houston, introduced a new map for Bexar County in an amendment on the House floor. Jetton sought to change the boundaries of districts located more than 200 miles away from his own. Jetton did not respond to a phone call and email left seeking comment.

Jetton’s changes affected the demographic makeup of multiple districts, though it particularly focused on District 118. The seat is vacant after the resignation of Democrat Leo Pacheco. Republicans are hoping to win it back in a Nov. 2 special election.

Jetton’s map had changed District 118 from a potential swing district to a solidly red district, as well as diluting the percentage of Latino voters in other Bexar County districts.

The consensus reached among members of the Bexar County delegation shattered when Rep. Steve Allison, a San Antonio Republican, told his Democratic colleagues he wouldn’t resist Jetton’s attempt to influence the Bexar County map.

Not only had Allison signed the Oct. 11 letter, he had told his Democratic colleagues repeatedly that he wouldn’t deviate from their agreed-upon map, according to Democratic state Rep. Diego Bernal. If Allison had spoken out against the amendment, it would have made changing the map harder for Republican leadership.

“Jetton would have had a much harder time getting his amendment through if Steve Allison had kept his word with the Bexar County delegation,” Bernal said. “He stopped being a Bexar County rep and became a Republican rep.”

Earlier in the process, Cortez had upset some of his Democratic colleagues by working directly with Allison on an earlier version of the map. Allison and Cortez had submitted their map ahead of the rest of the delegation’s before later working with colleagues on the consensus map.

When Jetton’s amendment came up for a vote, Cortez stood with the other Democrats and Larson, who is not seeking reelection in 2022, in trying to block it. In an interview this week, Cortez also expressed confusion about Allison’s move.

“I can’t speak to why he stood the way he did,” Cortez said.

A spokesman for Allison did not respond to phone and email messages seeking comment.

Bernal and other Bexar County Democrats later worked to tweak the boundaries to lessen what they saw as the partisan impact of Jetton’s amendment. The result was new District 118 boundaries that leave a fairly even split between Republican and Democrat voters.

State Rep. Ina Minjarez, a San Antonio Democrat who serves on the House redistricting committee, said the change led to some likely Democratic voters being removed from District 118 and packed into her safely blue District 124.

“I’ve worked really hard in that district to maintain a relationship with Republicans and independents,” Minjarez said. “I did not see the need to be packed with more Democrats. It wasn’t necessary.”

Race’s role in redistricting

Democrats and voting rights advocates say the redistricting process has led to the dilution of the voting power of nonwhite voters. Because of a 2013 Supreme Court case, this year was the first in modern history when Texas legislators didn’t have to seek prior approval from the U.S. Justice Department to ensure that their new boundaries don’t dilute minority voting power and violate the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

At least three lawsuits seek to challenge the legality of Texas’ new district maps. In a press conference last week that included Eric Holder, the former attorney general during the Obama administration who is now chair of the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, one of the organizations suing the state.

“We’re not dealing with a problem that is restricted only to Texas,” Holder said. “Republicans are trying to racially gerrymander throughout the country, and we are trying to meet that challenge wherever we can.”

Republicans have denied that race played role in the new district lines. According to The Texas Tribune, state Sen. Joan Huffman, a Houston Republican who chairs the Senate’s redistricting committee, called the new maps “race-blind” in one hearing this month.

“We have not looked at any racial data as we drew these maps, and to this day I have not looked at any racial data,” Huffman said.

According to census figures, 95% of Texas’ growth over the past 10 years has been among people of color, and non-Hispanic whites only make up just under 40% of the population.

Yet according to Texas Legislative Council figures analyzed by The Texas Tribune, whites are the majority group among eligible voters in 89 (59%) House districts and 20 (65%) Senate districts.

How district maps will change

Here are maps from each Senate District that includes Bexar County and from each county House district that show how boundaries will change:

Texas Senate District 19

Incumbent: Democrat Roland Gutierrez

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Texas Senate District 21

Incumbent: Democrat Judith Zaffirini

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Texas Senate District 25

Incumbent: Republican Donna Campbell

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Texas Senate District 26

Incumbent: Democrat José Menéndez

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Texas House District 116

Incumbent: Democrat Trey Martinez Fischer

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Texas House District 117

Incumbent: Democrat Philip Cortez

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Texas House District 118

Seat vacant; special election runoff Nov. 2.

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Texas House District 119

Incumbent: Democrat Liz Campos

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Texas House District 120

Incumbent: Democrat Barbara Gervin-Hawkins

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Texas House District 121

Incumbent: Republican Steve Allison

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Texas House District 122

Incumbent: Republican Lyle Larson

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Texas House District 123

Incumbent: Democrat Diego Bernal

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Texas House District 124

Incumbent: Democrat Ina Minjarez

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Texas House District 125

Incumbent: Democrat Ray Lopez

To view the map legend and toggle between current and new boundaries, click on the icon in the left corner of the gray bar.

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is the San Antonio Report's environment and energy reporter.