Friday, March 31, 2017

HJR 118 is best for all Texans

Do you believe that some people’s votes should count more than others? Do you think Senate District 21 which runs from Starr County which is an hour south of Laredo on the Mexican border northeast to Guadalupe County then north to Travis County is a sensible district? Do you believe in gerrymandering for partisan gain? Do you believe legislators should get to pick their constituents instead of voters picking their legislators?

If you answered no to those questions you probably should support Victoria Neave’s bill HJR 118 which would change the way Texas creates state legislative and congressional districts. Today state law gives legislators from the party in power the right to create the district maps in their own interests. Since they’re drawing the maps they make sure that their seats are safe and that two incumbents of their party aren’t put into the same district. Essentially they are picking their constituents in order to insure re-election.

Those hyper-partisan maps have triggered numerous lawsuits and cost Texas over $2 million just in the current decade. Texas is losing the current lawsuit but it is still battling so taxpayer dollars continue to be spent.

In 2013 Austin used an Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to draw its 10 city council district boundaries in compliance with federal and state requirements through an open and transparent process that enabled full public consideration and comment. The volunteers on the commission held a series of public meetings over four months to gather public input.

The Commission worked to ensure that the districts were geographically contiguous and compact, minimizing the impact on local neighborhoods or communities of interest, used existing election precinct boundaries, and had geographically identifiable boundaries.

HJR 118 would create a non-partisan Citizens Redistricting Commission which would consist of 14 voters who aren’t elected officials, lobbyists or major campaign donors. They would be tasked to create district maps that are both compact and respect communities of interest. The process would include input from community members around the state. Equally important they would be expected to draw maps without regard to partisan makeup or where incumbents live.

If you’re a Republican you just might be OK with the current hyper-partisan maps but remember if Democrats ever retake control of the legislature under current law they could and likely would return the favor. It’s in the best interest of every Texan that a non-partisan Citizens Redistricting Commission as called for in HJR 118 draw the maps after the 2020 census. If nothing else it should dissuade many of the current plaintiffs from suing the state again.

The Redistricting Committee has yet to meet and hold a hearing on this bill. If you believe as I do that no politician should have the right to choose their own voters call Representative Cindy Burkett at (512) 463-0464 and urge her to hold a hearing on HJR 118.

Published in the Seguin Gazette March 24, 2017

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