Amid multiple lawsuits, Texas' redistricting gets D- from elections watchdog
Tuesday, October 17, 2023
A Texas math professor who studies redistricting is not surprised a nonpartisan elections watchdog group has given the state's redistricting process a grade of D-minus.
Andrea Barreiro, associate professor of mathematics at Southern Methodist University, said findings by Common Cause parallel her own that show lawmakers' clear bias toward Republicans. For the project, Mathematics for Unbiased Maps, SMU researchers created 1.5 million possible redistricting maps.
Barreiro said the map approved by lawmakers was far beyond her group's most extremely biased map.
"The process was not really very responsive to constituents, as far as I could tell," she explained. "It did not really seem that what the public was saying about the maps really had much impact on the decision-making process."
Multiple cases are proceeding through the federal courts challenging the new Texas congressional maps as racially discriminatory. Last week, a U.S. District Judge ordered Galveston County to redraw its Commissioners Court map by this Friday after finding it violated the federal Voting Rights Act.
Dan Vicuna, director of redistricting and representation with Common Cause, said the solution to extreme gerrymandering is establishment of a nonpartisan system or commission with broad representation to draw up districts - which only exists in a handful of states.
"The public understands that whether you're kept in one district with a community that shares concerns of all sorts can really make the difference between having a champion in the halls of power - or not having a champion," he explained.
Recent census data show Hispanics officially make up the biggest share of Texas' population, roughly 40%, but Barreiro said their influence as voters is blunted.
"We still have racially polarized voting in Texas, you know, white voters tend to vote one way and nonwhite voters tend to the other side of the aisle," he explained. "And so, nonwhite voters are less able to elect a candidate of their choice when they're essentially cracked and packed into a smaller number of districts."
Only California and Massachusetts earned an 'A' in the study, while 17 states received failing grades.
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