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Congressional Redistricting Reform in Texas (2007)

Introduction

The following is my professional report for my master's degree in public affairs, which I wrote somewhat hastily in the spring of 2007. Please excuse the many typos and generally rushed writing. My first reader was Professor (& current Austin city councilman) Bill Spelman and my second reader was former state representative Sherri Greenberg.

Abstract

Congressional redistricting occurs across the states after every decennial census, and is typically a fiercely partisan process marked by partisan strategizing, cries of gerrymandering, and endless court battles. Single-member districts are drawn to be contiguous, equipopulous, and compliant with the Voting Rights Act; states also attempt to make compact districts, align them with political subdivisions, and maintain communities of interest. A few states seek to create competitive districts that reduce the incumbent’s advantage. Redistricting law has changed markedly in the past century, beginning with the enforcement of equal population in the 1960s; since then emphasis has shifted to racial and partisan gerrymandering. One innovative technique to reduce gerrymandering is the independent redistricting commission; these commissions are reviewed for the six states who use them for congressional districts. Based on this comparative analysis, recent attempts in Texas to reform redistricting do not appear strong enough. Public input into the redistricting process should be strengthened and the current proposal to give undue influence to rural interests should be modified. But given the difficulty of enacting redistricting reform, more conservative alternatives should also be considered: a constitutional amendment prohibiting mid-decade redistricting, federal legislation on electoral procedures, and multi-member districts with proportional representation.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1. Principles of Redistricting - page 1
  • Chapter 2. Redistricting Law and Precedent - page 17
  • Chapter 3. The Several States - page 32
  • Chapter 4. Policy Recommendations - page 46
  • Bibliography - page 56
  • Vita - page 58