The local story involved the judicial review of Texas’s gerrymandered congressional districts. A panel of federal judges in San Antonio attempted for the second time to ameliorate the severely gerrymandered districts, and not surprisingly none of the partisans was happy. Republicans continued to believe that the judges showed too much judicial activism, while Democrats argued that the judges were too deferential.
An article in the San Antonio Express-News focused on the Harlandale school district, which is a small, poor school district in the middle of south San Antonio. The district has traditionally been a part of Congressional District 23, but with the new gerrymandered districts, the school district has been divided into three congressional districts – 20, 23, and 35. Former District 23 Congressman Ciro Rodriguez, speechifying from the Harlandale district, legitimately argued, “The community is being divided, and the proof is right here.”
But it is not just residents of the south side of San Antonio that are being abused by the Republican gerrymandering. I live in northwest San Antonio in Congressional District #20, and if I were to drive east across north San Antonio for 40 miles, I would cross into five other districts – 23, 21, 35, 28, and 15. Does that make sense for us Northsiders to have our congressional representation divvied up among six congressmen? From what I have read, most people would rather have one full-time congressman fully committed to them than several part-time congressmen whose attention and loyalty are divided.
Austin and Travis County, because of their strong Democratic voting patterns, were particularly abused by the Republicans’ gerrymandering. Travis County was divided into five separate districts, each of which was attached to a significant number of non-Travis voters. Thus, Travis County, with a population in excess of 1 million, will control the election of zero congressmen. Its one minority-majority district (35) stetches into San Antonio, which will control the selection of its congressman.
The second news story involved redistricting, not gerrymandering in California. According to an article in USA Today, California is redistricted by independent citizens instead of politicians, and because of this process, David Dreier, a 16-term congressman and chairman of the Rules Committee, “was basically left without a district when California’s independent redistricting commission redrew the state’s congressional boundaries.”
How can it be that a congressman is left without a district? With a little more investigating, I was able to learn from the LA Times that Dreier actually lived in a congressional district, but unlike Texas Republicans, he wasn’t allowed to map his district to include the people he wanted in his district. According to the Times, his new district contains a majority of Hispanics and in the previous election the district’s voters went for Obama. Rather than face those voters, Dreier decided to retire. Perhaps related to his decision was the fact that the 59-years old bachelor who was rumored to be gay had been passed over for a senior leadership position in the Republican Party.
Gerrymandering is indefensible, but the problem is that candidates are not forced to defend it. If I were running in a primary or general election, I would attempt to get my opponent to take a position. If my opponent agreed, then that would be progress. If my opponent disagreed, then this could become a successful election issue with the voters (if I could get the word out.) A huge majority of voters hate gerrymandering and would not think kindly of any candidate who defended it.