Redistricting: Do You Know Who your Congressman Is?
In Texas, the contentious issue of Congressional redistricting has postponed primary elections. Earlier this year, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, had agreed to temporary voting maps, placing two new Congressional seats in Hispanic dominated districts. The legal clash has reached the U.S. Supreme Court with minority groups alleging the Republican dominated Legislature had ignored the growing Hispanic population and drafted discriminatory redistricting maps.
Joining us are panelists:
- Tom Brunell, PhD – Professor of Political Science, University of Texas at Dallas
- Wade Emmert, JD – Chairman: Dallas County Republican Party
- Luis Roberto Vera Jr. – Attorney and Counselor at Law, LULAC National General Counsel
- Matthew Wilson, PhD – Associate Professor of Political Science, Southern Methodist University
While Abbott has said several minority groups agreed to the plan, other minority groups have chosen to fight the decision. The Mexican American Legislative Caucus argues that the new plan, which actually redraws boundaries for both Congressional and State legislative districts, dilutes minority influence in some areas. Joining us on this program, Luis Roberto Vera, LULAC National General Counsel, counters, “The deal means absolutely nothing… How do you try to navigate between these things that are essentially political and yet keep it fair? We need to strengthen the vote, not lessen it”.
The Census Bureau counts Americans every 10 years. Based on the population in each state, some states gain or lose Congressional seats. The 2010 Census resulted in Texas gaining four additional seats – from 32 to 36. Texas population growth in the last 10 years has resulted in 2.8 million more Hispanics, 523,000 more Afro-Americans and 465,000 more whites. Based on the new census figures, the minority groups want 3 of the 4 new districts. As is usual, the majority party (in this case, Republicans) re-drew the boundaries for all the seats, including the new ones. Texas is one of nine states subject to the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, which means, that a federal court has to approve the new boundaries. A San Antonio Court had redrawn the boundaries to favor Democrats. Republicans objected, as they believed these districts would vote Democrat. The resulting dissension over new voting maps has become a key and bitter issue, postponing elections until a “fair” outcome can be determined. Yet what is “fair”?
With the help of scholars, Dr. Tom Brunell and Dr. Matthew Wilson, on this program we discuss: what redistricting is, why and when it’s done, the need for proportionality, the influence of the Voter Rights Act, and the many lawsuits in this particular Texas case. Wade Emmert, Chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party and Luis Roberto Vera, Jr, with LULAC- give us their insights, arguments and perspective from their competing viewpoints.
The process of deciding where lines are drawn and how minorities are treated is complex. Some groups claim that the present system is discriminatory. Gerrymandering results in odd districts and drawing fair districts is critical.
Gerrymandering came to be exactly 200 years ago and is alive and well today. According to Oxford, to Gerrymander means to: “manipulate the boundaries of (an electoral constituency) so as to favor one party or class. In Texas, as well as other states, the way seats are divvied up could be pivotal in determining which party – Republican or Democrat controls the U.S. House. With the upcoming Presidential election, these decisions could well influence who becomes our next president.
Don’t miss this lively “debate” and conversation about things that Really matter with people who Really care. This conversation affects your future. And we want to hear your comments so please post to our website and get the word out on Twitter.
Thanks for joining us,
Niki Nicastro McCuistion
Executive Producer/ Producer
Speaker/ Consultant on Transformational Change
2003 – 05/20/2012