The Truth Behind the Numbers

For Immediate Release, February 29, 2012

(AUSTIN) As many of you may have been hearing, there is a lot of talk and uncertainty regarding redistricting. Every 10 years, the Constitution mandates that states have to re-apportion all of their districts in accordance with the new Census data. After doing so, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Acts of 1965 (VRA) requires many states and governmental entities to submit their redistricting plans for “preclearance” to ensure that minority representation has not been purposely diminished. Shortly after completing the redistricting process in 2011, the State of Texas chose to seek preclearance through federal court in Washington, D.C., anticipating an expedited approval process. During this process, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and various minority groups chose to oppose the maps claiming that Texas had violated Section 5 of the VRA. As a result, preclearance has been delayed so we still lack any maps and the primaries have been delayed indefinitely. I specifically want to voice my strong opposition to how the DOJ’s efforts would adversely affect the people of my district, including Pasadena, the main city in my current district and in the map passed by the Legislature.

First, I strongly oppose activist judges interfering with the maps drawn by the democratically elected members of the Texas Legislature. Originally, a federal court in San Antonio drew interim maps, but the US Supreme Court overturned them, saying that the court should have given more deference to the Legislature’s maps. Instead of continuing to fight for the maps drawn by the Legislature, some state officials are caving in to certain groups and negotiating new maps that do not reflect the will of the people. Recently, the Texas Attorney General (AG) attempted, but failed, to settle with the activist groups, but in doing so, the AG’s office demonstrated its willingness to sacrifice Pasadena and the communities in HD 144. One point that needs to be very clear is the state maps have NOT been ruled to violate the VRA, and yet, the court system is actively engaged in redrawing our maps.

The main argument made against the Legislature’s maps is that the state diminished “minority opportunity districts,” which is a violation of the VRA. The argument is over the definition of “minority opportunity district.” The Legislature’s maps were drawn on the basis that “minority opportunity” was based on the percentage of the voting age population (VAP), but the DOJ argues that “minority opportunity” is based on the outcome of the elections, not on the ability to vote. For example, my district (144) drawn by the legislature would have a combined minority VAP of 53.3%. In other words, my district would be a majority-minority district. Although recently I have submitted a compromise map for HD 144 to state officials that gives district 144 a minority VAP of 70.3%, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit say it is still not enough. Despite a majority-minority VAP, the district is not considered a “minority opportunity district” due to the outcome of Republican representation. Given this information, it appears that the DOJ is more interested in creating Democrat districts than ensuring that minorities are properly represented.

I have always been a strong believer in keeping communities together. This gives smaller cities, like Pasadena, stronger representation in Austin. Although the Legislature’s map keeps most of Pasadena in one district, the interim court maps and the proposed settlement by the Texas Attorney General’s office split Pasadena many different ways. This could diminish the impact that the residents of Pasadena will have on Legislative elections. It will also make it more difficult for our issues to be addressed because they will have representatives that will not depend on citizens to get elected or to remain in office. As a result, their representatives may be less responsive to the needs of Pasadena citizens as well as the Pasadena Independent School District.

If the United States is truly comprised of a government “of the people, by the people, [and] for the people,” as stated by Abraham Lincoln, then it is imperative that its representatives originate from the population in which they reside. By residing within the population, they serve, advocate and, consequently, give a louder voice to constituents in the state funding and legislative processes. With similar concerns and motivation, as well as proximity to the needs of the people, advocates may have a stronger impact in resolving matters specific to their district. As a resident of Pasadena, I witness firsthand the benefits of unity in a diverse community and residence within the district to further the objectives of the people.

Contact Information: Brad Tegeler | 512-463-0460

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