So what happened?

Texas fell about 190,000 residents short of gaining a second seat, according to Michael Li, a redistricting and voting rights expert at the Brennan Center for Justice in New York City, who formerly practiced law in Dallas. Li said there is an object lesson here for Texas. Minnesota has a storied civic culture. It had the highest census response rate of any state and enjoyed the highest voter turnout in 2020. New York invested heavily in a campaign to encourage census participation, without which it might have lost two seats.

Even though the Trump administration ultimately failed to add a citizenship question, Texas officials did little to assuage migrants’ fears.

Beyond political power, some $1.5 trillion in federal spending is keyed to census results. The George Washington Institute of Public Policy estimated that even a one percent undercount could cost Texas nearly $300 million a year. “I think there are a lot of people who are afraid of the demographic change that is taking place in Texas,” Li said, “and they would just rather not know.” It also rubs many Republicans raw to be counting people who are not citizens or legal residents for purposes of distributing power.

The next part of the process will be the most contentious. Later this year, state lawmakers will meet in Austin in a special session to draw new districts for themselves as well as congressional members. It’s a highly partisan process that will almost certainly produce a flurry of lawsuits from Democrats, voting rights groups, and racial minorities who will be at the mercy of ruthless GOP mapmakers. The Census Bureau says it will provide states by September 30 with the detailed data, including information on race, ethnicity, and voting age at the local level, needed for redistricting.

Earlier census estimates suggested that Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians account for almost 90 percent of Texas’s population growth. The Republicans who control the legislature must contend with those demographic facts when drawing new state legislative and congressional districts. But they’ve done so successfully in the past. For example, more Latinos live in the Dallas–Fort Worth area than in the state of Colorado, yet there is no Latino member of Congress from North Texas.

In an email on Monday, Democratic strategist Matt Angle, founder and director of the Lone Star Project, a PAC that works to promote Democratic fortunes in Texas, all but pleaded with Republicans to “do the right thing” by preserving congressional districts that give Black and Latino candidates a shot at winning.

All thirteen Texas congressional districts held by Democrats “should be preserved in some form, and then the two new seats certainly should be drawn probably as Latino seats, given the population growth.” That would still likely give Republicans 23 of the 38 seats, or 60 percent, which is more than the vote percentage that any Republican gets in a typical statewide election. “Any map that doesn’t net out 15 seats where minorities have the strongest voice is probably a violation of the Voting Rights Act,” Angle said. “I don’t think [Republicans] will concede to two Democratic seats. I fully expect them to violate the Voting Rights Act.”

In a state in which Republicans hold all the levers of power, and in a nation where Democrats control the U.S. House by just a six-vote margin, and Republican appointees to the Supreme Court have proven ready and willing to weaken the Voting Rights Act, there seems little chance of Republicans conceding anything. As Senator John Cornyn tweeted on Monday: “Texas will gain the most new seats in the U.S. House of Representatives under new Census numbers released Monday, while states in the Northeast and Midwest will lose seven seats, shifting some political clout to Republican strongholds before the 2022 midterms.”