Case Counts/Testing in Texas – Monday, September 27th (2:15 PM data)
Confirmed Cases – 3,347,504 (4,853 new cases)
Hospitalizations – 9,719 (8,713 available beds, 516 available ICU beds)
Fatalities – 62,980 (38 new deaths)
Vaccine Data – Friday, September 24th (7:45 PM data)
Total doses administered – 30,701,518
People vaccinated – 17,176,595
People fully vaccinated – 14,721,129
Doses Shipped by state – 24,317,550
Inside the Numbers
Positivity rate as of Monday, September 27th was 11.79%. One month ago, there were 12,200 new cases reported, one week ago there were 4,300 new cases reported, compared to the 4,853 reported yesterday. The 9,719 COVID patients in hospitals now is 1,901 less patients compared to one week ago, and COVID patients make up 15.2% of total hospital beds in the state.
Over the last week, an average of 70,424 doses have been administered each day in the state. As of Monday, September 27th 50.4% of Texans have been fully vaccinated.
Congressional Maps Released
Texas legislators released the first draft of the state’s new congressional map on Monday. Experts believe that the way the map was drawn will provide incumbents with a great advantage while decreasing the number of Black and Hispanic majority districts. This reduction of districts dominated by people of color comes despite Texas recently gaining two additional congressional seats thanks to the rise of Asian, Black and Hispanic populations in the state.
The newly proposed map (counting only eligible voters) includes 23 districts with white majorities, seven with Hispanic majorities, none with a Black majority and eight that have no majority. Under the new map, there will be one less Hispanic majority district and one less Black majority district than the last map.
The map, constructed by Republicans, will strengthen susceptible GOP seats – a incumbent protectionist strategy. By avoiding adding any new seats, Republicans have chosen a defensive game. If they had added new seats they would have had the potential of flipping areas from blue to red; however, this more aggressive strategy comes with greater risk and less of a guarantee. The strategy, as it played out, will in fact strengthen Republican positioning overall in Texas, going from 22 to 25 districts that voted for Donald Trump in 2020. The number of congressional districts that voted for Joe Biden would shrink by one, from 14 to 13.
Under the new map, Texas will add two seats bringing its grand total to 38 congressional seats and 40 electoral votes. The new seats were drawn in Austin and Houston.
Although most incumbents seem safe in these maps, others were drawn into districts that overlap with one another — for example, the proposed map pits Houston Republican Rep. Dan Crenshaw against Democrat Rep. Sylvia Garcia. It also pits two Houston Democrats — Reps. Al Green and Sheila Jackson Lee — against each other.
Maps for the Texas Senate have already been released, but no proposals for the Texas House have been released at this time.
Texas Secretary of State to Audit Four Counties
Without explanation, the Texas secretary of state’s office announced late last week that it will conduct a “full forensic audit” of the 2020 general election in four Texas counties: Collin, Dallas, Harris and Tarrant. These four counties comprise Texas’ two largest Democratic counties and two largest Republican counties. This audit comes despite no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Texas’ 2020 elections. In fact, earlier this year, an official called the 2020 election “smooth and secure.”
The announcement came hours after former President Donald Trump asked Gov. Greg Abbott to add an elections audit bill to this year’s third special session’s agenda.
Critics of this move view it as an assault on Texans’ trust in elections.
A Harris County Elections Administrator said in response, “while other people continue the political posturing and petty fights of the past, we will continue preparing for this November’s elections. We encourage Harris County residents to register to vote by the October 4 deadline.”
Although many Texas Republicans have been publicly outspoken about their beliefs of widespread voter fraud, few Texas voters actually believe this type of fraud is common. A University of Texas/Texas Tribune Poll from June found that only 19% of Texans believe ineligible people frequently cast ballots.
Border Opens Near Del Rio After US Clears Migrant Camp
The Del Rio border crossing in southern Texas was closed for more than a week after thousands of migrants organized a camp beneath the crossing’s bridge. The majority of these migrants were Haitian, making their way to the U.S. across the Rio Grande River from Mexico. While the pass was closed, traffic was rerouted to Eagle Pass – nearly 60 miles away.
The county sheriff, Joe Martinez, expressed his exhaustion with this past year, “This year we’ve dealt with a winter storm, we’ve dealt with the pandemic, we’ve dealt with this immigrant crisis. I dealt with a jailbreak — all in a short period of time.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced plans to allow passenger traffic to resume at 4 p.m. local time Saturday, September 25. Officials say they expect to open the crossing for all cargo traffic on Monday, September 27 at 8 a.m.
Property Tax Legislation Fast Tracked
Legislation to cut property tax rates is on a fast track through the Texas Legislature, one of the things being considered other than redistricting during this special session. Republican lawmakers have faced pressure from the party’s furthest right members to attack the Texas’ high property taxes. Supporters look to the $19 billion in federal stimulus money that has been set aside for Texas public schools and a nearly $8 billion surplus sitting in state coffers as a way for the state to provide some temporary property tax relief.
“The obvious is that when you have excess funds, you should be giving some of it back to the taxpayers,” said state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, a Houston Republican and author of the property tax legislation.
Lawmakers managed to push through a $2 billion tax-cut bill that’s intends to reduce the average Texas homeowner’s taxes by $200. The measure had no issues in the Senate, passing with a 30-1 vote Wednesday afternoon.
Political Quick Hits
There are two special elections being held today to fill vacancies in the Texas House.
The first is for House District 10, in north Texas, to fill the vacancy created when former Rep. Jake Ellzey was elected to Congress. John Wray is facing Brian Harrison, both Republicans. Wray represented the seat for three terms until 2020, when he decided not to seek reelection. Harrison is a former chief of staff at the US Department of Health and Human Services in the Trump administration. The race has gotten nasty, as rumors have been circulating about Wray’s personal conduct while he was a member of the House that led him to not seek a fourth term in 2020. Harris denies any involvement in the furthering of those rumors.
House District 118 in San Antonio has five candidates vying to replace former Rep. Leo Pacheco, who resigned last month to take a faculty position at a local junior college. The district leans Democrat, but the Republicans are hoping to have success in an area where President Joe Biden’s numbers are falling, and get one of their candidates into a runoff and ultimately flip the seat. There are 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans in the race.
State Rep. Phil King, a longtime Republican House member from Weatherford, will seek the Republican nomination for the newly created Senate District 10, which now includes Parker County, his home county, and runs into areas of Fort Worth. The solidly Republican seat is part of the newly released Senate map that hopes to increase the Republican majority in the Senate.
Add veteran Rep. Jim Murphy, a Republican from Houston, to the list of those not seeking reelection next year. Murphy, who also serves as the House Republican Caucus Chair, brings the number of House members not returning to 13.
The House and Senate both met on Monday, and both immediately adjourned until Thursday. The Senate Redistricting committee will meet again this week to take more testimony on the Senate plan, as well as the newly released plan for Congressional districts.