Federal appeals Court calls Texas Gerrymandering unconscionable – and legal

 

If you follow state and national politics, you already have these three words in your vocabulary. If you don’t, over the next two years you may want to add them.

The words are “redistricting,” “partisan,” and “gerrymandering.” Taken together, advocates of fair elections say they are toxic.

Redistricting is re-drawing congressional and legislative districts once every ten years following the federal census, to adjust for population shifts. 

For congressional districts, that can include adding or subtracting them due to gain or loss of population among various states. 

The U.S. House of Representatives was frozen at 435 members a century ago. And, since 1943, Texas has gained one or more congressional seats following each census. Here’s how many Texas had, since 1943: 

1943 – 21

1953 – 22

1963 – 23 

1973 – 24

1983 – 27

1993 – 30

2003 – 32

2013 – 36

The electoral votes for each state are also reflected in their congressional representation – by adding that number to the state’s two senators. Texas will have 38 electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election.

Redistricting after the 2020 census is set to be done by the Texas Legislature in its 2021 legislative session. Democrats fear Republicans will keep control of the Senate, House and governorship, and repeat the partisan gerrymandering they did in 2011.

 The term gerrymandering was coined in 1812, when the governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, signed off on legislation to redraw the state senate districts to help his own party.

A political cartoonist’s map depicting one wrap-around district as resembling a salamander led to what has become a common term for the party with the power drawing district lines to help their side and punish others.

Democrats and civil rights groups seeking to outlaw partisan gerrymandering took a big blow when the U.S. Supreme Court voted 5-4 to say, basically, that it had no control over redistricting. A three-judge federal appeals panel recently ruled Texas districts “unconscionable” but legal.

The court’s declaration has ramped up the efforts by some Democratic groups to do whatever they can in several targeted states to win legislative bodies, and governorships.

In Texas, Democrats took over 12 Republican House seats in 2018, and hope to capture at least nine more in 2020. Democrats currently hold 67 of the 150 House seats, to 83 for Republicans. Nine more in 2020 would give Democrats a 76-74 lead – and a potential block to partisan gerrymandering.

Groups that have Texas as the largest state targeted for turning blue include former Democratic President Barack Obama’s pet, the National Democratic Redistricting Committee, chaired by Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder; the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee;  the Texas Democratic Party; and the Democratic National Committee itself. 

So, folks, there’s going to be some high-stakes political poker over the next couple years. The legislators elected in 2020 will be drawing the new district lines.

Pay close attention, because what happens will probably affect whether our legislative and congressional districts will be shaped to unduly favor one party over the other – or not.

And that could affect your life.

 

Texas Republican Congressmen John Ratcliffe, Pete Olson, Leaving House. . . . 

Over this past weekend, Rep. John Ratcliffe, was announced as President Donald Trump’s pick to take over as head of the National Intelligence Agency.

Ratcliffe, 53, a former United States Attorney, will be replacing Dan Coats, the former Indiana US senator, who was often at odds with Trump. 

Ratcliffe has represented the 4th Congressional District east and north of Dallas in the upper right corner of the state, 

Ratcliffe is a Tea Party Republican, who nosed out then-91-year-old longtime predecessor Ralph Hall in the 2014 GOP primary, in Texas’ most Republican district.

Ratcliff is a staunch Trump supporter, who much more closely shares Trump’s world view.

Early last week, Pete Olson, the Republican who has represented the 22nd Congressional District southwest of Houston since 2009, announced he won’t seek re-election next year.

His district has gradually changed, and his easy re-elections for a decade slipped to a 51 percent victory in 2018. 

The district is targeted by Democrats for 2020, and Sri Preston Kulkarni, the Democrat who got 46 percent last year, is running again.

 

Former GOP Criminal Court Justice Says Adios to Republicans. . . . 

Elsa Alcala, who was appointed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals by former Gov. Rick Perry in 2011, and retired at the end of 2018, says Donald Trump’s racism and “rotten core” has ended her several-decade judicial career with the GOP.

Trump speaks about brown people like me as lesser beings,” Alcala told the Austin American-Statesman. “It’s cliche to say, but the Republican Party left me.”

She plans to vote Democrat in 2020. 

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