North Texans weigh in on redistricting maps

Posted Friday, Jun. 07, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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On Thursday, North Texans stood divided.

Residents on both sides of the political aisle packed a room at DART Headquarters in Dallas for an hours-long redistricting hearing. Some said the court battle over congressional and legislative boundary maps needs to end, but more called for continuing the fight to provide more minority representation in Texas.

“Are the [current maps] perfect? Probably not,” Collin County Republican Party Chairman Fred Moses told the House Select Committee on Redistricting. “Are they something we can live with? … I think they are.

“We shouldn’t be continually tying this up in the court, confusing people.”

Others said the fight must go on.

“Here we are in the 21st century still discussing civil-rights issues,” said Abigail Algiene, 57, a self-employed Fort Worth woman. “Shame on us and shame on you.

“I urge this committee to become change agents and break new ground,” she said. “Refuse to be puppets of a master puppeteer.”

Moses and Algiene were among hundreds of North Texans crowding into the room, including Reps. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth; Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth; and Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie. They spoke about the maps, drawn by federal judges in 2011, during the first legislative hearing outside Austin.

State lawmakers are in a special session to decide whether to sign off on the maps or change district boundaries that might violate voter rights.

Rep. Drew Darby, R-San Angelo, who heads the committee, and Sen. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, who heads the Senate redistricting committee, have said they will consider changes and even different maps if they are legal.

Lawmakers have until the end of the 30-day special session, which began May 27, to approve maps.

Differing opinions

Various legislative proposals would do everything from leaving the interim maps as they are to adjusting them to create a Hispanic congressional district in Tarrant County or contain the 33rd Congressional District solely within Tarrant County.

Another option is to reconfigure the 25th Congressional District, now represented by Weatherford car dealer Roger Williams, into a Democratic district in Travis and Hays counties.

Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks told lawmakers that the overall redistricting process has been long and confusing and includes numerous bills creating different maps.

“To say it is confusing is charitable,” he said.

Even so, Brooks was among many at the hearing asking lawmakers to keep districts such as the 33rd — which stretches from Fort Worth to Dallas and is represented by Rep. Marc Veasey, an African-American from Fort Worth — as well as add a Latino district in North Texas.

“I challenge you to regain the trust and faith of Texans … by empowering the minority Texans you have so far undermined,” he said.

At the same time, Adryana Boyne said enough is enough.

“These things about race politics need to stop,” said Boyne, 48, of Dallas. “These maps have already been approved by a court.

“It’s a waste of taxpayer money to continue to go back and forth to court to change the maps,” she said. “There would be a delayed primary [if the legal fight continues] and that is not right. … We need to stop fighting about these. … They are fine the way they are.”

Legal challenges

After the GOP-led Legislature redrew district boundaries in 2011, a flurry of lawsuits challenged the constitutionality of the maps.

Ultimately, three federal judges in San Antonio redrew the lines late that year, but the U.S. Supreme Court said they had gone too far.

The San Antonio judges went back to the drawing board and created interim maps that were used in 2012 state elections.

While Republicans have fought those maps, Gov. Rick Perry called lawmakers into a special session to review the boundaries and adopt them without changes.

Democrats disagree, saying that these maps are better than what came out of the 2011 legislative session but still don’t go far enough.

Political observers note that drawn-out legal disputes could lead to delays in filing deadlines and elections, like in the past two years.

Tarrant County residents traveled to Dallas for the hearing by car, van and bus.

“Gov. Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott and other Republican leaders have never been willing to actually listen to citizens during the redistricting process, but we have to make them pay attention,” according to an email circulated by Democratic leaders in Tarrant County.

“We must make our voices heard.”

Other meetings conducted by the House and Senate redistricting committees will be held in Corpus Christi, Houston and San Antonio. After the hearings wrap up, the Legislature will return for work at the Capitol.

Anna M. Tinsley, 817-390-7610 Twitter: @annatinsley

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