September 9, 2019
As a political office holder, I’m always happy when I find someone who knows my name. It’s politically important to reach voters and achieve name ID. And, yeah, there’s a bit of ego involved, too.
During a recent car ride home from the airport, the driver asked me where I worked. I told her I was a lawyer and state senator. She said, “You’re not my state senator. My state senator is Kirk Watson.”
While I try not to argue with constituents, I told her I was, in fact, Kirk Watson. She told me I didn’t look like Kirk Watson. I had too much grey hair.
I’m very happy she knows who represents her, but that dinged the ego a little.
The redistricting process begins
Over the next year or so, you’ll have an opportunity to speak up about who represents you as the Legislature prepares for a huge redistricting battle in 2021. That’s when the Legislature has it’s shot at drawing the election maps for Congress, the Texas Senate, the Texas House and the State Board of Education. Those maps are drawn with the intent that they will be in place for the next 10 years.
The House and the Senate both have new special redistricting committees. I’m on the Senate committee. Upcoming redistricting hearings will be one way for you and other Texans to tell those drawing the maps why it’s so important that you have a fair chance for your voice to be represented.
If history is any indication, those in the majority and control of the Capitol will slice and dice the state with few limits (even fewer in light of the Supreme Court’s allowance of partisan gerrymandering) to amplify the voices of those voters who agree with them while stifling many of the voters who don’t. In essence, they want to choose their voters, instead of empowering voters to choose their representatives.
Sadly, we’ve seen an increasing desire by those in control of the Capitol to make it harder for people to participate in elections altogether. Moreover, these same politicians have too often worked to rig the system so that anyone who might disagree won’t have a fair chance to be elected and represent that alternative view.
That’s why I so strongly urge involvement in the process. The House and the Senate committees will have hearings across the state where anyone can testify. This is your chance to directly speak to those who will be drawing the lines. Here you can tell them who’s in your community and your neighborhood. Tell them which groups share the same issues and concerns as you. Tell them how your voice is or isn’t being heard and if your community has been split between so many representatives that you really have no representation at all.
Mark your calendar
The House Redistricting Committee will hold its first hearing tomorrow. This hearing will be open to the public to both listen and testify.
There will be subsequent hearings across the state to get input from various communities about what the committee should keep in mind when drawing the maps next legislative session.
The Senate will also be conducting similar hearings, beginning in Austin on October 29th. The committee won’t consider public testimony at this hearing. It’s all “invited” testimony, unfortunately, but that’s the Senate for you. It’s still a good opportunity to watch (live or once it’s archived) to get an idea of what’s to come in 2020. Once I know the details on future Senate hearings that include public testimony, I’ll be sure to spread the word and encourage you to participate.
This is very important work. And it ought to be done fairly without becoming a partisan slugfest. While I might have grey hair (maybe because I have grey hair), I’m not naïve. Sadly, it will be a partisan slugfest. It ought to be done straight up right. It won’t be. Let’s try though. To have a shot at doing it right, we can’t rely on others to be our voice. We have to show up. We have to be heard now.
October 3rd fun