HOUSTON — Redistricting designed to favor one political party has skewed election results in many states, and a new report says Texas is among the most extreme examples.
The Brennan Center report, called “Extreme Maps,” said partisan bias in drawing district lines in seven closely divided battleground states has given Republicans at least 16-17 additional seats in the current Congress.
According to report co-author Michael Li, gerrymandering in Texas is relatively easy because, despite being a mostly red state, is has pockets of blue that invite the party in power to skew the lines in their favor.
“Texas is a state that has a lot of purple territory,” Li said. “For example, Harris County is a 50-50 county, and you could say the same for the Dallas-Fort Worth area overall. And it’s those purple areas that give you the opportunity to gerrymander.”
Li said gerrymandering by Texas Republicans accounts for a significant portion of their 25-11 seat advantage in the state’s Congressional delegation. The report found that partisan bias in district maps in the swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and North Carolina have accounted for seven to ten extra Republican seats since 2011.
Li said extreme distortion of political maps takes place when a single political party has control of the redistricting process.
“Simply by making sure that you have an inclusive process where lots of people – not only lawmakers from the other side, but also community members – can weigh in, you actually see these problems completely disappear,” he said.
Bias also was found in states where Democrats controlled redistricting, but those states have relatively fewer congressional districts and, therefore, less of an impact.
While courts have found that districts drawn to disadvantage minority groups are unconstitutional, gerrymandering for partisan gain has been allowed. But Li said there is now a sharp racial divide between the parties.
“That really shows you where the court’s jurisprudence is lacking,” Li said “And hopefully in the next year or so, the court will also say that partisan gerrymandering, in addition to racial gerrymandering, is out of bounds.”
A political gerrymandering case from Wisconsin may make it to the Supreme Court in the coming term.
Author: Mark Richardson – Texas News Service