The Texas Legislature is in full swing. And, while lawmakers typically wait until the waning weeks of the session to get anything done, we're answering some of your questions about what goes on under the granite dome for our TXDecides project.
Today's question comes from Jane Shaughness:
What is the best way for the average citizen to get engaged with redistricting?
Jennifer Stayton: With KUT News in Austin I'm Jennifer Stayton. It's Tuesday morning, and that is the time each week when we check in with KUT Senior Editor Ben Philpott for a look at what's happening at the Texas Capitol during this 2017 legislative session. Thanks as always for your time Ben.
Ben Philpott: Good morning.
JS: So I want to check in with you about kind of a big picture question right now, and that's redistricting. I want you to untangle a couple of things for us. First of all what is the current status of redistricting? It's 2017 there's a session going on. Is anything happening with redistricting right now?
BP: We've had a court case recently that you've probably heard about and heard reported here on KUT. Some federal judges have said that the state intentionally discriminated against minorities in the drawing of three congressional districts back in 2011, when they drew the maps. We'll see an appeal most likely from the state on this. I don't know how much longer the court case will go on before maps start to get redrawn. If they are redrawn, it won't just be those three districts you probably can't just redraw those three districts.
JS: Will there be a domino effect?
BP:There will be a domino effect, so we could get to five or seven districts that surround the three in question. So we could see a redraw, you know, maybe possibly in time for the 2018 elections. Although, we're less than a year out from the party primaries, so that may be a little tough.
JS: Well when would the maps normally be redrawn in just the regular cycle of maps?
BP: They'd be redrawn in the 2021 legislative session. You'd have the 2020 census and then in 2021 lawmakers would take that new information go to the Capitol and redraw the congressional state Senate and state House maps.
JS: So you know we've been taking time this legislative session to answer listeners questions about what's happening the Capitol and we actually had a question also from a listener about redistricting who wants to know. What is the best way for the average citizen to get engaged with the redistricting process?
BP: And, so, again we're talking about that 2021 redraw. And, honestly, there's not a lot you can do. You can join groups that will draw their own maps, their own suggestions for the legislature. Different activist groups, different minority groups will come to the legislature during that 2021 session and say 'Here's how we think you should draw the maps.' Beyond that, if you really don't like how the party in charge is drawing the map at the moment right now in Texas – that's the Republicans – you should go vote. Because changing the makeup of the Texas House and the Texas Senate is really how you would get a dramatic shift in the way the maps were drawn in the state.
JS: Thanks Ben for walking us through what's happening with redistricting right now and what's likely to come in the next few years. KUT Senior Editor Ben Philpott checks in with us every Tuesday morning to look at what's happening at the Texas Capitol during the 2017 legislative session and beyond sometimes. Thanks Ben.
BP: Thank you.