The Austin-American Statesman had an article up on Sunday about redistricting, especially in Texas. Is it fair? Should we keep with the old adage “to the victor goes the spoils” or work towards a solution where citizens are aptly represented based on demographics?
Let’s look at both ideas:
(1) To the victor goes the spoils — the party in the majority is in the majority because they won, therefore, they should have control over drawing the maps and setting the line for representational districts
(2) Fairness — should our elected officials, regardless of party, focus more of drawing lines that create districts more resembling how populations in a certain state are placed, focusing more on demographics and less on political party
First off, Texas gives the party controlling the State House full control over drawing the maps. Keep in mind they have to account for populations increases or decreases (adding or taking away districts), where the population is growing or shrinking, and how the population is changing. If the legislative body cannot come to an agreement on maps, it falls to a Redistricting Board composed of five elected officials (Lt. Gov, Comptroller, Land Commissioner, Attorney General, and Speaker of the State House). Generally in Texas, all or most of these offices are going to be filled by one party, usually the party also in power in the State House.
My issue with this, is the party in power is only going to draw the lines that, at a minimum, reflect population changes. Their goals are twofold: (1) Protect the incumbents of their own party; and (2) Create more districts that lean towards their party. What ends up happening is the party out of power can challenge the maps. Already, as a Southern state, Texas is required to pre-clear all maps with the U.S. Justice Department (which, in and of itself, is often quite political); in this instance, now the Courts become involved.
Redistricting is a dirty, dirty part of politics. Which is why it needs to be taken out of the hands of elected officials. If the voters can elect their own commission, fully unable of holding any other state job, you might see maps that more accurately reflect demographic and population changes. For instance, break Texas into an odd number of districts and voters elect 1 redistricting commissioner from each district to draw the maps for their regions. Let someone from Houston draw the Houston map, same with Dallas, San Antonio, west Texas, south Texas, etc. These people have one job, they do it once, and they can’t be re-elected. Simple as that.
Let’s be smart about this. Stop politicizing everything.