Create an Independent Redistricting Commission in Texas
This petition had 5,416 supporters
Redistricting occurs approximately every 10 years, after the U.S. Census. The purpose is to adjust congressional, legislative, and other districts based on population, while ensuring certain requirements of the Voting Rights Act are met.
When redistricting is a partisan process, problems occur. The party in power uses its power to draw districts that weaken the other party. This is called gerrymandering. The one-hour documentary How Elections are Rigged by Snag Films describes the problem in depth and can be found on youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-285T7Pdp58&t=463s Both the Democrats and the Republicans have been guilty of gerrymandering.
Presidents from both parties – including John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Barack Obama -- have spoken out against gerrymandering and urged for a non-partisan process in redistricting (see the youtube video). One way to achieve that goal is through an independent, non-partisan redistricting commission.
As of this writing, 13 states exclusively use redistricting commissions to draw electoral district lines. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redistricting_commission
Texas is not one of those states. Instead, the Texas Legislature draws district boundaries. If it fails to do so, the Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB) will draw the legislative (but not congressional) districts. That Board is comprised of five partisan officeholders: the lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, attorney general, comptroller, and commissioner of the general land office. Texas’ redistricting process has been the subject of federal litigation for years. See Perez v. Perry; Evenwel v. Abbott; and Davis v. Perry. These lawsuits have cost Texas taxpayers in excess of $5 million.
Multiple attempts to create an independent redistricting commission in Texas have failed. Republican Jeff Wentworth (San Antonio) sponsored bills in 2005, 2009 and 2011. In 2015, Democrats Rafael Anchia (Dallas) and Donna Howard (Austin) sponsored bills. Howard is sponsoring a bill now in the 2017 Legislature. HJR 32 would create an Independent Redistricting Commission and give Texas citizens the opportunity to vote on an amendment to the Texas Constitution to permit the Commission. In addition, Democrat Royce West is sponsoring SB 209, which would create an Independent Redistricting Commission for congressional districts but not legislative districts. That bill has been referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee.
This petition urges the Texas House Committee on Redistricting and the Senate State Affairs Committee to hold public hearings on HJR 32 and SB 209, and to vote both bills out of committee so that the full Legislature can consider them. At a bare minimum, all of our representatives should have a say in whether this proposal goes to the Texas voters.
Texas these days is considered a purple state -- in recent elections, its cities have gone blue while its rural areas remain red. Because of this, this is an ideal time to seek an independent redistricting commission, as both parties will benefit from it.
The San Antonio Express-News supported the proposal in 2015: http://www.mysanantonio.com/opinion/editorials/article/A-Texas-way-revealed-on-redistricting-6377717.php
The Texas League of Women Votes supports the idea: http://www.lwvtexas.org/Redistricting.html
The National Organization for Women (NOW) supports the idea: http://now.org/resource/issue-advisory-restoring-democracy-court-ruling-approves-independent-commissions-to-counter-gerrymandering/
The New York Times found that independently-drawn districts are more competitive: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/02/upshot/independently-drawn-districts-have-proved-to-be-more-competitive.html?ref=politics&abt=0002&abg=1&_r=0
Common Ground for Texans supports drawing districts without partisan gerrymandering: http://cg4tx.org/about/vision-mission-statement/
Texas Common Cause supports redistricting reform: http://www.commoncause.org/states/texas/?referrer=https://www.google.com/?referrer=http://www.commoncause.org/states/texas/
The Brennan Center for Justice supports reforming the redistricting process so that it is independent, transparent, and ensures that communities are fully and fairly represented in Congress and the nation’s legislative bodies: http://www.brennancenter.org/issues/redistricting
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