It’s been two years since the 2010 Census and cities in Texas are either finished with or are finishing their realignment of council districts. Houston and Dallas are done, Fort Worth and El Paso are in the final stages, and Austin and San Antonio are in the middle of their processes. San Antonio’s redistricting will most likely just involve a shifting of boundaries, primarily to accommodate the increased population growth to the north, specifically the northwest side. The same is true for most of the other districts in Texas, except for Austin. Austin is going through a much larger discussion about moving from 7 at-large districts to a different make-up, primarily focused on geographic districts but with some hybrid options offered as well. So in this discussion, you have to ask what really is the best type of city council make-up.
The start of my day had an air of optimism to it as I read several accounts by political reporters and pundits around the state that the attorneys for the state and plaintiffs in the Texas redistricting case were working towards a settlement. It all seemed to make sense and had the air of rational thought behind it. I guess in all that optimism I underestimated some of the actors and problems that might kill the deal. I posted my thoughts on the matter and even how it might benefits Democrats in Texas. That last statement should have been my cue that this deal might be DOA when the hardliners got involved, one being Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas). While any hope for a deal isn’t dead, there are some serious hired hands working to kill it if it does surface.
Amazing how in politics some things somewhat unrelated can have an effect on other things. Kind of a “butterfly effect” in a political sort of way. In this case, it appears the tight race to select a Republican presidential nominee may be pushing parties in the Texas redistricting case to come to a swift agreement. According to Michael Li, a Dallas attorney who has been closely following the process, we could see a settlement between both the plaintiffs and the state sometime early this week, ahead of the February 6th deadline ordered by the San Antonio court if an April 3rd primary is to be expected. Considering how strongly a line Attorney General Abbott has been holding up to this point, why does there seem to be such a change of plans?
Here’s a list of articles or blog postings I have found interesting from my review of subscriptions today – 12/29/2011. The news covers most of the things I follow including politics, local events, media information, and general interest. While I try to follow a lot of things, I probably miss some things. If you have something interesting add it in the comments section of this posting. If you have comments on some of the items feel free to drop them in the comments section. Just remember to follow the Guidelines. Read more…
Today Aaron Blake of the Washington Post posted an excellent article entitled “Texas redistricting case: Five things you need to know.” The article is a great read for everyone who may not have been keeping up with Texas redistricting. After all, it’s not the most interesting holiday party topic these days unless you’re a policy wonk or politician. Amazingly it does come up at most of the candidate parties I’ve been to so far. Yes, we do love our Texas politics. The article walks towards what might possibly happen with decisions from SCOTUS and the two district courts involved. More importantly, the article hints at something several who have been watching this process think might happen. That is that Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act might possibly be invalidated and thrown out, allowing for all states under preclearance requirements today to avoid that step in the process. So how important is Section 5 and do we still need it after 3 decades?
Texas is a big state and seems to boast about every big thing there is. We have the biggest chicken fried steaks (although everyone has their favorite place serving that slab of arterial blockage), one of the biggest Ferris wheels (the Texas Star), and the biggest bass drum (Big Bertha for you Longhorn fans). But when it comes to politics Texas has been wanting to make it big on the national stage with something to show we have big ideas. What better way to show those ideas than to grandstand them. Those big ideas, as seen by some of our state’s Republican leaders, focus on states rights. They are the core of Rick Perry’s campaign and the focus of his book, “Fed Up!” Now, Attorney General Greg Abbott seems to want to take those big ideas to the biggest court in the nation, the Supreme Court of the United States. But what’s really behind this move?
Today Michael Li, a Dallas attorney who has been heavily involved in the Texas redistricting process, put out the latest information of proposed maps and reasoning by interested parties to redistricting. As you probably know the redistricting maps proposed by the 82nd Texas Legislature have been challenged in court by several parties, primarily Hispanic interest parties such as LULAC, MALC, and the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force. While some may think redistricting will force all sorts of challenges in November, as the Texas Tribune notes, the real challenges will be in March when candidates in the two parties will decide who will potentially win the district. Very few of the districts were drawn as competitive and “only six of the 150 House districts were won by one party or the other by less than 10 percentage points.” Monday was the deadline for proposals to be submitted by interested parties. So how did those proposals look?
Yesterday I wrote an entry about how Texas redistricting seems to be developing into sort of a “divide and conquer” strategy by the Republicans to keep the urban districts diluted in such a way as to retain Republican control where they can. By the way, that term is called “fracturing” in redistricting lingo. Granted, not all districts can be diluted to such a point that Republicans win all the seats. In fact, if they were able to actually employ such a strategy it would face intense scrutiny from the Dept. of Justice. However, you can see the tactic in play more and more as Texas urban areas continue to grow. After the entry was published, a friend pointed out the Democrats would employ a similar strategy to retain their seats, if they were in control. He’s right about that, although I’m sure the details would be different. So is there a better way to managing the decennial event we call redistricting?
The redistricting trial finished its closing arguments last week in federal court, with some interesting statements being made by both sides. At stake are not only the boundaries of the current 32 congressional districts in Texas but four new districts allocated Texas as a result of the population growth of the state, primarily fueled by a growth in the number of Hispanics. With four new districts in the mix it creates even more challenges are legislators in Austin worked to create the new maps before the biennium session was over. What you’ll start to see as you look at these districts and others across the state is an interesting approach that seems to splinter urban centers by paring the urban areas with rural areas surrounding the cities. It’s a sort of divide and conquer strategy employed by Republican lawmakers to attempt to keep a Republican majority.
One of the big tasks faced by this session of the Texas legislature is to redraw the various districts of Texas to hopefully adapt to the dynamics of population and political change throughout the state. The process happens every decade after the results of the US Census are published, providing information on how many people live where in the US. This year’s census will give Texas four more seats in Congress thanks to an increase in the Hispanic population and a migration of people from around the nation to Texas for jobs.
The census numbers are out finally and, as expected by many, Texas picked up four additional seats in the House of Representatives, bringing our total to 36. We didn’t overtake California but that’s not happening anytime in the near future. More importantly, now we have to figure out how to properly represent those additional 4.2 million Texans who are in the mix. Enter the legislative game of redistricting – a decennial game that pits the best of the best against each other in the Texas legislature, testing the wits and skills of even the best politicians in town. But there may be a better option. Read more…
Paul Burka, Texas Monthly political columnist, recently wrote about proposed legislation by Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) to change the way congressional districts are drawn every decade. Instead of having the Texas legislature draw the districts through committee, SB 315, proposes the creation of a bipartisan Texas Congressional Redistricting Commission separate from the legislature. Rep. Mark Strama (D-Austin) has submitted a similar bill, HB 104, in the House. Read more…