Texas House Select Committee Holds Redistricting Meeting In Houston

The Texas House Select Committee on redistricting held the last of three hearings in Houston yesterday. The panel collected public input after Texas Gov. Rick Perry called a special session to address the constitutional questions surrounding the current redistricting maps.

A three-judge federal court in San Antonio delayed the Texas 2012 primary, following complaints that a new electoral map — drawn by Republicans — violated the federal Voting Rights Act. The complaint, diluting the voting power of blacks and Latinos.

Field hearings in Dallas, San Antonio and Houston were held to gather input on how to improve minority representation.

Jeff Archer, chief legislative counsel, who’s been involved with redistricting for 30 years, told the hearing panel that Texas had legislatively enacted plans that were unenforceable.

“The court drew three plans attempting to address the most serious voting rights issues, with respect to moving forward on an interim temporary plan. The Texas Attorney General took issue with those plans, and made a direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, under the theory that they did not give difference to the enacted plans sufficiently.”

Houston Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Democrat, told the panel that the interim lines adopted by the San Antonio court were never intended to be permanent.

“If anything, adopting these maps as permanent, merely shows further discriminatory intent and would invite additional litigation. Secondly, if the legislature’s intent on adopting an interim plan as permanent, it should instead choose a plan that more affectively adheres to the law, and allows adequate representation for communities of color.”

But Shirley Isbell of Meadows Place, a tiny city near Stafford, told the panel that there should be a plan that ensured representation, regardless of color.

“Our city is one of the most diverse, and only one square mile. We had more voters come to the polls in the last election than any other. So what I’m asking you to do is look at that map one more time and just look where we are, and give us representation from, instead of taking us away from that, because we don’t fit in somebody’s idea of where we should be.”
No one knows how long it’ll be before the two year battle between the state and opponents of the redistricting plan is over, but Gov. Perry and legislative leaders hope to avoid the electoral chaos of 2012 and hold the 2014 elections on time.

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