Re-Districting Reform, Gerrymandering – An Overview & Facts

Every ten years, Texas creates new boundaries for state and federal districts. Historically, the majority party forms districts that will hurt the opposing party for the next decade of elections Texas is one of 28 states (##need to confirm)  in which legislators are wholly responsible for redrawing maps. As demographics change and new citizens vote in larger numbers, an impartial and nonpartisan process for drawing districts is essential.

The 2011 legislative session resulted in the formation of strange new districts. Legislators from the minority party were “redistricted” out of office. Districts were carved up to create majorities likely to keep the same party in power. Other districts were given warped boundaries that split communities.

The term “political gerrymander” has been defined as the “practice of dividing a geographical area into electoral districts, often of highly irregular shape, to give one political party an unfair advantage by diluting the opposition’s voting strength.” However, courts have had difficulty determining when officials illegally use partisanship in the redistricting process. In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled, in a fractured opinion, that it was unable to adjudicate a political gerrymandering claim that arose in Indiana. 

Partisan redistricting contributes to polarization in both Congress and the Texas Legislature. This division decreases cooperation across the aisles and can result in a deadlock over federal and state budgets. Fixing the redistricting process cannot completely solve this issue, but a fair, non-partisan approach to drawing districts can make a significant change.

Legislation to reform the redistricting process has been introduced to the Texas Legislature in every session since  every year since 2005.  Each legislative year, these bills and proposed constitutional amendments have died while in committee in the House and Senate.  We need continued support and pressure to move legislation completely through the legislature.

The Facts

  • Placing the power to draw district lines in an independent commission eliminates or reduces problems such as deadlock in drawing district lines that then requires Court intervention.
  • Politicians have a conflict of interest between creating fair districts and increasing their party’s political power and their own political safety.
  • Partisan redistricting allows a small majority to dominate one or both chambers of the Texas Legislature, marginalizing a significant bloc of voters statewide.
  • Partisan gerrymandering results in legislative gridlock.
  • Creation of gerrymandered “safe” districts usually results in the election of candidates who are at the extreme edges of their party and unwilling to compromise to enact legislation that is controversial in any way or not favored by political party leaders.
  • Due to the increase in “safe” seats, legislators have less of a need to compromise. By lowering the number of “safe” seats, bipartisan redistricting lessens both the likelihood of gridlock and partisan bias in decision-making.
  • A redistricting commission results in a more efficient government.
  • Statistically, maps crafted by bipartisan commissions result in less litigation, freeing up court dockets and saving taxpayers’ money in court operation.
  • By shifting redistricting responsibility to a commission, legislators have more time to tend to the people’s business, like passing a state budget or reaching a solution on transportation funding, during the normal session.
  • Legislators elected from competitive, non-gerrymandered districts are more likely to enact legislation based on its merits and the good of the state rather than on party-line directives.

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