14 March 2010

Democrats and Republican Prepare To Face Off Over Texas Redistricting

Houston Chronicle: Census likely to kick off redistricting fight

While the Census is nonpartisan, the redistricting process is highly political. How districts are drawn can determine whether they are competitive or are solidly Democratic or Republican.

Texas currently sends 20 Republicans and 12 Democrats to Congress. If the state gets four new seats, they likely will be split: two Republican and two Hispanic Democratic.

“The political parties tend to view redistricting first through the lens of partisan advantage,” said Nina Perales, regional counsel for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

Perales noted that in 2003 the Republicans created a new black district in Houston with the intention of defeating Anglo incumbent Democrats Chris Bell and Nick Lampson. That new district now is held by U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston.

The Texas redistricting battle that stretched from 2001 to 2003 was highly partisan, caused Democrats to break two legislative quorums and resulted in power shifting from Democrats to Republicans in the Legislature and congressional delegation.

Fast population growth in one area may not mean that is where a new congressional district goes. A large population may be divided into multiple districts if it creates a partisan advantage.

“Ultimately, it's a political decision,” Republican consultant Eric Opiela said.

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