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Texas Civil Rights Project Impact Report 2021

March 14, 2022

This year's Impact Report will tell the stories of the victories we shared together in our movement for social justice in Texas. From the halls of the Texas Capitol in Austin to the Rio Grande Valley, our team of dedicated legal advocates fought to ensure the civil rights of all Texans were preserved, no matter what language they spoke or what their citizenship status was.

Voter Registration at Texas Public Libraries

February 1, 2022

The National Voter Registration Act ("NVRA") requires states that have not adopted automatic voter registration to designate certain public offices as "Voter Registration Agencies." These Voter Registration Agencies are required to offer voter registration to the public in certain specific ways. In 1995, after passage of the NVRA, Texas designated public libraries as one category of publicly funded offices that must serve as Voter Registration Agencies if they meet certain funding and hours-of-operation requirements.Beginning in 2020, the Texas Civil Rights Project learned that of the more than 500 independent public library systems in Texas—comprised of thousands of local branches—not a single public library was in full compliance with its obligations under the Texas Election Code.This initial finding raised serious questions as to whether libraries were providing the voter registration opportunities guaranteed to Texans by the NVRA and the Texas Election Code. After TCRP sent thousands of letters to library directors, discussed requirements with hundreds of librarians and county election officials, and issued public records requests to various election authorities, more than 290 different library systems have now submitted an NVRA Implementation Plan as of January 1, 2022 and about 70 others are in the process of doing so.While this is significant progress, there is much work left to do to guarantee that every Texan in every community across the State has access to the voter registration opportunities guaranteed to them by law. TCRP continues to offer assistance to libraries and has developed educational materials to help libraries more easily train staff and volunteers. Nevertheless, TCRP calls on the Texas Secretary of State to fulfill his duties to protect Texans' voting rights, and calls on our communities to assist us in ensuring that every public library is conforming to the law.

A Review of Redistricting in Texas

December 1, 2021

Texas exploded with growth in the decade between 2010 and 2020, far outpacing any other state by adding 3,999,944 people, entirely in our cities and suburbs. Over 95% of our new residents are people of color, with Latinos constituting a whopping 49% of total growth. In this Texas, on a proportional basis, given their significant population size, Latinos should comprise the majority in 45 state house districts.But the final maps, as recently signed into law by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, prop up the political power of rural, Anglo Texans at the expense of everyone else. Indeed, both of the new congressional districts created are majority Anglo. And the state House map reduces the number of majority Latino opportunity districts – meaning, districts where Latinos have a meaningful chance to elect a candidate of their community's choice – from 33 down to 30.This report is meant to provide a detailed analysis of the maps, as passed. We also seek to celebrate what our movement for a more reflective democracy did accomplish, which is worth celebrating. And, finally, we want to make sure that future generations of civil rights lawyers, community organizers, lawmakers and everyday Texans fully understand the origins of our flawed maps. The lessons and experiences learned from this cycle are absolutely critical for the next 10 years of work built by Texas organizers and attorneys. Ultimately, this process must reflect and celebrate the diversity and dynamism of our State because Fair Maps are a clear sign that we have a healthier and more reflective democracy. The absence of that fairness and transparency point to deep flaws in our democracy that must be rectified and addressed to achieve a more just Texas.

Prison Gerrymandering Report 2021

April 26, 2021

The purpose of the redistricting process should be to create districts that accurately reflect the communities they represent and to distribute political power across those communities. But counting incarcerated individuals at the facility where they are incarcerated, rather than their home addresses, artificially bolsters the political power of certain communities on the backs of individuals who are not truly part of those communities, while simultaneously reducing the political voices of their home communities. In Texas, there are dramatic implications, with a handful of rural regions gaining a disproportionate share of the political power over other rural regions and diminishing the true population count in certain urban areas. This under-representation only exacerbates existing problems with Census undercounts and socio economic disparities which have a root in racial discrimination. It also deviates from how Texas law treats incarcerated populations in every other context, creating a conflict with the Texas constitution that needs to be addressed.Traditionally, the United States Census Bureau has counted incarcerated individuals at the facility where they are housed, but the Bureau has made clear that this historical practice has persisted only for administrative reasons, not for legal or policy ones. Recently, the Census Bureau has evolved in its treatment of incarcerated populations, and, for the first time, will make it practical for states on tight timelines to assign incarcerated individuals to their home communities. Many states across the nation are taking advantage of this opportunity to correct for the distortions created by prison gerrymandering. In order to more accurately reflect the state's population, Texas legislators should take advantage of the Census Bureau's new tools and work with state agencies to identify those prisoners who, rightfully, should be counted at an address in their permanent community.