Texas Senate & House hold redistricting hearings in Houston

Dorothy Olmos testifies before the Senate Select Redistricting committee Saturday

HOUSTON – Committees from the State Senate and House are holding hearings in Houston, to get public input on the interim maps now governing election districts in Texas for Congress and the Legislature.

Hearings are being held across the state, including Corpus Christi, Austin, and Houston, to solicit public input on the U.S. Congressional, Texas House, and Texas Senate maps being considered by the legislature.

As these interim maps do not properly reflect the rapidly changing demographics of Texas, “I encourage you to attend the following hearings and voice your concerns,” said Rep. Armando Walle.

Senator Garcia said “The population of Harris County grew from 3,400,590 in 2000 to 4,092,459 in 2010. From 2000 to 2010, the Latino population in Harris County grew by 691,881. Latinos constituted 79.75% of the total population growth in Harris County. …maps were proposed …that included an additional minority opportunity district in Harris County, that were not addressed in the interim map.”

Gov. Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott are rushing to get court-drawn temporary interim maps adopted during a special session before the courts have ruled on pending claims of intentional discrimination and Voting Rights Act violations.

The first meeting for the Texas Senate Select Committee on Redistricting took place last Saturday, June 8, 2013 at 11:00 a.m. at University of Houston – Main Campus, Michael J. Cemo Hall, 4800 Calhoun Rd., Houston, TX 77004.

The Texas House Select Committee on Redistricting will meet on Wednesday, June 12, 2013 at 2:00 p.m. at the University of Houston – Main Campus, Michael J. Cemo Hall, Room 100 D, 4800 Calhoun Rd., Houston, TX 77004. Representative Walle has urged interested voters to attend this meeting, and express their opinion on boundaries and make-up of the districts.

After the hearings, legislators will work together to consolidate comments and produce maps that are acceptable to both parties, Sen. Garcia said. A final vote may come in about two weeks. The legislators may also simply approve the existing interim maps. However, a court challenge is expected on these maps.

At the hearings on Saturday, which lasted about three hours, a variety of speakers expressed their concern about the current maps. Only a few spoke in their favor.

Most speakers said they felt the maps defined districts that were discriminatory, but surprisingly the reasons why varied greatly. Although Senator Garcia and others had voiced the need for a minority-majority opportunity district representing Hispanics, this was only one of the themes of the speakers. Many spoke about the extreme gerrymandering of the outlines, and how this was a disservice to voters of all backgrounds. Many wanted them redrawn in more compact, and therefore representative of a small geographic area.

William Drout and his wife felt that gerrymandering placed too much emphasis on race, and not the issues that the representatives should be dealing with. Drout also condemned the current representative, Sheila Jackson Lee, as dishonest and not representing his interests well.

Please contact Rep. Walle’s district office at (713) 694-8620 or Capitol office at (512) 463-0924 with any questions about the hearings.

Steve Brown, chair of the Fort Bend Democratic party, saw an opportunity to form a district with equity between four different races, something unique.

Dorothy Olmos spoke as an Hispanic Republican, saying this was an opportunity for both parties to work together to represent a minority.

In summary, Senator Garcia and chair Kel Seliger thanked everyone for the input, which will be considered when amendments are filed next week, and eventually voted on.