Tag Archives: redistricting

High court to settle redistricting dilemma?

I don’t expect the current U.S. Supreme Court to decide that Texas’s legislative and congressional boundaries were drawn in a manner that discriminates against people of color.

Why not? Because its ideological composition would tilt toward those who dismiss such concerns.

The court will decide Abbott v. Perez sometime this year. It involves the manner in which several districts were drawn. Critics say that Hispanics were denied the right to choose a candidate of their own because of the way a San Antonio-area district was gerrymandered.

I’ll set aside the merits of the case that justices will hear. I want to concentrate briefly on the method the states use to draw these districts.

They are done by legislatures. The Texas Legislature is dominated by Republican super-majorities. The custom has been that the Legislature draws these boundaries to benefit the party in power.

Legislators don’t like being handed this task at the end of every census, which is taken at the beginning of each decade. The late state Sen. Teel Bivins of Amarillo once told me that redistricting provides “Republicans a chance to eat their young.” I’ve never quite understood Bivins’s logic. To my mind, the process allows the party in power to “eat the young” of the other party.

The 1991 Texas Legislature redrew the state’s congressional boundaries in a way that sought to shield Democrats, who controlled the Legislature at the time. The Legislature divided Amarillo into two congressional districts, peeling Republicans from the 13th Congressional District to protect then-U.S. Rep. Bill Sarpalius, a Democrat. Sarpalius was re-elected in 1992, but then lost in 1994 to Republican upstart Mac Thornberry.

Gerrymandering not always a bad thing

My own preference would be to hand this process over to a bipartisan commission appointed by the governor and both legislative chambers. I favor taking this process out of politicians’ hands. Their aim is to protect their own and stick it to the politicians — and to voters — from their other party.

Perhaps the Supreme Court’s decision might include a dissent that spells out potential remedies to what I consider to be a political travesty.

One can hope.

Redistricting really and truly matters to us

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?

No love for Hillary from White House

The late state Sen. Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, once told me that the Legislature’s decennial redistricting effort gave Republican lawmakers a chance to show how they “eat their young.”

It’s a cutthroat business, carving up a state into equally sized legislative and congressional districts. It has to be done once the census is taking every decade.

Well, it’s good to point out that Republicans aren’t the only ones who “eat their young.” Democrats do it, too.


A New York Post columnist reports that sources tell him that White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett leaked to the press Hillary Clinton’s use of a personal email account while she served as secretary of state.

Where’s the love from the White House? Not with Jarrett, apparently. It remains to be seen if the Post article can be verified by other, independent sources. A part of me isn’t surprised by what the columnist is reporting.

Remember ol’ Willie Horton? He was the murderer whose prison furlough was approved by then-Democratic Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, who was his party’s presidential nominee in 1988. Then-Vice President George Bush, the Republican presidential nominee, hammered Dukakis mercilessly over that furlough, as Horton went out and killed someone during the time he was set free.

Do you remember who introduced that issue into the 1988 political campaign? It was a young U.S. senator from Tennessee, Democrat Albert Gore Jr., who was seeking his party’s nomination along with Dukakis. Gore ratted out Dukakis in a Democrat vs. Democrat game of insults.

I’m certain my friend Teel Bivins would enjoy watching this latest bit of political cannibalism.