Houston Matters

How Redistricting in Texas Affects Your Houston Neighborhood

The federal Voting Rights Act requires Texas and several other states to get approval from the federal government whenever they change their election laws. That includes the redrawing of legislative and Congressional maps. And so it was in 2011, that Texas lawmakers redrew the maps, only to have them rejected by a federal court, because […]

The federal Voting Rights Act requires Texas and several other states to get approval from the federal government whenever they change their election laws. That includes the redrawing of legislative and Congressional maps. And so it was in 2011, that Texas lawmakers redrew the maps, only to have them rejected by a federal court, because they did not properly account for growing black and Hispanic populations. The court replaced the maps with temporary ones, for use just in the 2012 election. Some lawmakers now want to make those maps permanent. And that's why Governor Perry called a special session of the legislature last week.

Saturday at 11am, the Senate Redistricting Committee will hold a public hearing at Michael J. Cemo Hall on the University of Houston campus. The House Redistricting Committee will hold a hearing in the same place next Wednesday at 2. These are opportunities for Houstonians to weigh in.

So, why is it important where district lines are drawn? Well, these districts are supposed to be evenly populated, but ideally should also reflect some real community boundaries. Instead, sometimes such maps are drawn in an effort to keep sitting lawmakers' districts "safe" for re-election by diluting the population that might oppose them – what's known as gerrymandering. That's one reason we sometimes end up with districts that have really squiggly lines, that weave in and out of neighborhoods.

We spoke with Harvey Kronberg, writer, editor, publisher of the Quorum Report. Richard Murray, a Political Science professor at the University of Houston, and Director of the Hobby Center for Public Policy's Survey Research. And Robert Stein, Professor of Political Science at Rice University.

 

 

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