Redistricting is an issue that usually appeals to policy wonks, political junkies and perhaps nerds who have nothing better to do than think about this stuff.
I’m not really a wonk; I don’t consider myself a nerd. I am a bit of a political junkie.
But the redistricting mess is something that ought to concern everyone who’s affected by state and national government.
That means, um, everyone.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on its last day of his latest term that Arizona can allow someone other than the legislature to redraw congressional lines. The 5-4 ruling means that the state can appoint a special commission to do the job left normally to partisan politicians.
So, what does that mean for Texas?
Probably not as much as it should, according to the Texas Tribune.
The late state Sen. Teel Bivins of Amarillo used to say that redistricting provided Republicans the “chance to eat their young.” I never quite understood what he meant by Republicans eating their young. Democrats do the same thing.
The Texas Legislature redraws legislative and congressional boundaries after every census is taken. It’s done a horrible job of gerrymandering districts into shapes that make zero sense. It’s a bipartisan exercise in political power retention.
After the 1990 census, Democrats who controlled the Texas Legislature managed to split Amarillo in half in an effort to protect Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Sarpalius. It worked through one election cycle, as Sarpalius was-re-elected in 1992. Then came 1994 and Sarpalius got tossed out when voters elected Republican Mac Thornberry.
Some of the congressional districts downstate snake along streets and highways. They make zero sense.
As the Texas Tribune reports: “The Arizona case opens the door for voters to take the map-drawing away from the people who are occupationally dependent on the lines on those maps. That’s a fancy way of saying the lawmakers have a conflict of interest when they draw. They’re picking their voters instead of drawing the lines as if they had no interest at all.”
Did you get that? Legislators who draw the lines are the actual beneficiaries of their very own work.
They shouldn’t be involved. The Constitution doesn’t require legislators to do this task; it says only that states must do it.
If legislatures pass that duty to specially appointed commissions, then they are entitled to do so.
So, Texas legislators, what are you waiting for?