Sample Comments to Redistricting Committees
You can use these samples as models or lift the comments directly and use them. Important messages bear repeating. They also can show a court that many people held the objections.
Texas will be in legal jeopardy as a result of its gerrymandering
Even without the preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act being in place, Texas must still abide by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment. We would like to respectfully remind the Committee of Judge Rodriguez’s remarks during the Section 3 bail-in hearing held recently in 2019, when he asked if the Texas Attorney General's office could guarantee that lawmakers would not repeat abuses the court had criticized in the 2011 redistricting effort. Judge Rodriguez warned, “that, given the record produced in 2011, the State must implement a process that, by any reasonable definition, is ‘fair and open.” The Court further stated: “Even without being subject to preclearance, Texas must still comply with the requirements of the Fourteenth Amendment and Section 2 of the VRA in the upcoming redistricting cycle, and undoubtedly its plans will be subject to judicial scrutiny. Texas would be well advised to conduct its redistricting process openly, with the understanding that consideration of bail-in is always an option for whatever federal court or courts may be tasked with review of future legislative actions.”
State Board of Education
The Senate Redistricting Committee has contorted the State Board of Education districts representing Bexar County in a way that defies all logic. Bexar County currently is divided between Districts 3 and 5. District 3 swings from Bexar County through 11 rural counties down to the Rio Grande. District 5 is at least more compact, joining north Bexar County with Comal, Guadalupe, and Kendall Counties, with which Bexar County shares a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) are delineated by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget as having at least one urbanized area with a minimum population of 50,000. Metropolitan statistical area (MSA) is the formal definition of a region that consists of a city and surrounding communities that are linked by social and economic factors.
Under the proposed Texas Senate Redistricting Map 2103, Bexar County now is divided between SBOE Districts 1 and 3. This puts Bexar County at the tail-end of two highly rural districts, with District 3 now encompassing 16 mostly rural counties from Bexar County to the Rio Grande and District 1 shooting across a vast stretch of rural Texas of 30 mostly rural counties stretching from Bexar County to El Paso County and extending to the Rio Grande.
Among the guiding principles of redistricting are to create districts that are compact and to incorporate communities of interest, meaning that people in the district are linked by social, economic, and cultural factors. Those goals are not accomplished by joining Bexar County’s large urban school districts with those of very small communities. Furthermore, the 2020 Census showed that minority populations are declining in rural areas while those populations are growing in urban areas. Beyond that, the geography that one representative would have to cover—if that person is interested in engaging with their constituents—is breathtaking.
I propose this alternative. Keep Bexar County intact as one SBOE district. The Legislature prescribes that the ideal population per district is 1,943,034, with a maximum of 1,952,470. The population of Bexar County is 2,009,324—less than 3% over of the maximum prescribed by the Legislature. The district would be far more manageable if it were contained in one county, to the point that an additional 3% in population would be better served in Bexar County than if that population is spread out over several sparsely populated counties. And containing a district in Bexar County would meet the redistricting goals of creating a district that is linked by social, economic, and cultural factors.
Request for an Independent Redistricting Committee
The Governor’s call of this special session says you must address “legislation relating to the apportionment of the State of Texas.” The call does not say how you are to “apportion” based on the 2020 Census—no method is specified-- just that you do it. How you should apportion is with an independent redistricting commission.
The current system where legislators with unfixable personal and partisan conflicts of interest draw the lines has no credibility in the eyes of the public.
Chairman Hunter, at our Rotary Club meeting in Corpus Christi last year you very accurately described redistricting as an “annuity plan for lawyers,” and wisely said that a redistricting commission is the way to go. In the first week of the special session starting on September 20 please set a vote on each of the IRC bills that you very commendably set a hearing on in this Committee on April 20. Specifically these are HB 282, 1025, and 3094 related HJRs 59, 121, and 127 from Representatives Anchia, Gonzalez, and Goodwin. Any of these bills would produce a massive improvement in how Texas is governed.
To these Representatives, please reintroduce each of these items on during the current special session, but change the effective date so that an IRC in 2023 draws the lines for the 2024 and later elections. Give Texans this choice at the ballot box in November 2022: Do they want to have the lines that govern them drawn by independent people--as at least 14 others states have done--or do they want to continue to have them drawn by people with personal and partisan stakes in the outcome and that has consistently been mired in controversy and endless and very costly litigation? Let’s find out by asking Texans this question in November next year.
If Texas had an IRC now there would be no need for you to be here today or to come back to Austin on September 20 for yet another special session. If Texas adopts an IRC you would not have to waste your very valuable legislative time on redistricting anymore since drawing the lines would be someone else’s job.
Regrettably there is not enough time for an IRC to draw the 2022 lines, so for 2022 adopt the transparency in redistricting procedures in HB 3112, and then draw proposed 2022 maps. Have the bills setting these lines expire on December 1, 2022 so that it is clear to all that the IRC will draw the new lines in 2023.