The state legislature, now meeting in its third (?!?) special session of the year in Austin, is putting the finishing touches on new electoral districts for the state Senate, state House, state Board of Education and U.S. House seats representing the state.
The good news for Cooke County is that we will be included in much smaller state Senate, state House and Congressional districts, at least geographically.
U.S. Rep. Ronnie Jackson’s district is shrinking away from its eastern end, which means Cooke County will get a new voice in Congress that it will share with Denton and neighboring counties.
David Spiller’s state House District 68 is shrinking from 22 counties to 12, although it is still stretched out over a couple hundred miles; however, Cooke County will become a bigger part of the downsized district.
Futhermore, Spiller told the Register this week that he wants to open a district office in Gainesville once the maps are settled and he’s done with current legislative business.
These are good developments for Cooke County because we’ll have state and federal representation that is more dependent on us for votes come election time; just as important as that is our representatives will have less ground to cover and more time to spend drilling down into the needs of their constituents.
So, bully for us!
Much of the rest of Texas voters aren’t getting the benefits we will enjoy from the new maps, however.
You’ve no doubt read or seen or heard loud complaints from state Democrats and minority advocates about the new map being “Gerrymandered” to water down Democratic representation in the legislature and keep the Republicans in power, even as white votes slowly decline when compared to rises in black and brown voting numbers in Dallas/Ft. Worth, Austin, San Antonio, Houston and the Rio Grande Valley.
Houston-area congresspersons Sheila Jackson-Lee and Al Green, long-term veterans of the U.S. House, appear likely to be crammed into the same new district and forced to choose between running against one another or one or the other stepping aside.
That new district won’t create a new pickup opportunity for Republicans, but it will concentrate more black and Latino voters into one district and allow Republicans to shift more white votes elsewhere in order to protect other seats they already control.
The same manuvering is being done for state Senate and state House districts, also to redistribute white, conservative votes more effectively and allow the Republicans to maintain control.
And, yes, southern Democrats did the same thing for several decades to retain control over statehouses and Congress.
And it wasn’t right then, either.
We have towns hundreds of miles apart, with different economies, populations and social demands, that are being parted out and recombined merely to make certain that one party can continue to ignore the clear demograhic shifts of recent decades and ensure itself of super majorities in the state Senate and House.
We, the Register, don’t point these things out to attack Republicans or promote Democrats; rather, we mention them to point out that Gerrymandering is no way to establish and maintain a legislature (or Congress) which truly represents the neighborhoods and communities they are supposed to represent.
Elsewhere in the U.S., states are looking at creating non-partisan commissions to draw up these new maps every 10 years after the Census data becomes available.
Michgan voters overwhelming supported such a move several years ago and, despite the best efforts of its legislative leadership to quash the new system, it uses observable, honest-to-God data to decide how state and federal political districts can be drawn to best suit the populace.
There are lots of bright, civic-minded people in this state who have nothing to do with politics. Let’s round up some of them and have them do the maps.
After all, we know they aren’t worried about protecting their committee chairmanships or raising money to run for Governor down the road.