State Sen. Jeff Wentworth takes to the op-ed pages to tout again his bipartisan redistricting committee bill, the merits of which I daresay look a little clearer now given recent events.
Last June, during the special legislative session, a bill I authored, that would have changed the method whereby we redraw Congressional district lines, was passed by the Senate. Senate Bill 22 would have brought to an end the divisive and highly partisan exercise that always results in bad blood, expensive lawsuits, and gerrymandered Congressional districts, which are a disservice to Texans.
In addition to separating communities of interest, gerrymandering protects incumbents. Protected incumbencies discourage challengers, so voters’ choices are limited to a “token” challenger or to no choice at all.
Since both political parties have proven conclusively that they are unable to resist the gerrymandering urge, Senate Bill 22 would have created an independent, bipartisan citizens’ redistricting commission that I believe would bring more of a sense of balance and a semblance of fairness to redistricting.
An independent commission also would allow the Legislature to attend to critical issues during a redistricting session instead of indulging in bitter wrangling over Congressional districts.
Not to be nitpicky, but the Lege didn’t touch Congressional redistricting during this past regular session. They only took it up in a special session. That doesn’t change the merits of his bill, but that needed to be mentioned. To me, the curious thing about Sen. Wentworth’s bill is that it only addresses Congressional redistricting. The State House and State Senate districts were redrawn by the same three-judge panel as the Congressional districts, so you’d think those items would be worth pursuing for this kind of reform as well. I believe those changes would require a Constitutional amendment, which is probably why he’s not taken it up – his Congressional bill hasn’t been able to make it through, and it has a lower bar to clear. Be that as it may, I believe that if such a committee is a good idea for one form of redistricting, it’s a good idea for them all.