State redistricting means Harris Co. could lose a rep

April 14, 2011 5:14:52 PM PDT
The battle lines are being drawn as critical decisions that will affect your voice in the Texas House of Representatives for the next decade. As things stand right now, Harris County could wind up losing a representative.

A proposed map might not be the final one when all of the district lines are drawn in pen, but it is significant in that it suggests Harris County, despite growing in size, should lose a seat in the Texas House -- going from its current 25 seats down to 24.

In the Texas House of Representatives, Republicans hold a huge majority and they are using it to their advantage.

"The growth is occurring in Republican strongholds, so I think ultimately the Republicans are going to benefit," said Jared Woodfill, Harris County GOP Chairman.

While they are working this decade's redistricting map to their benefit, Harris County could actually lose out with the current proposed map combining the districts of State Representatives Hubert Vo and Scott Hochberg. Both are Democrats who represent minority districts.

"There was an argument ten years ago that we should have only had 24 seats, not 25. We are entitled to 24.4 something seats. Same as ten years ago," said Dick Murray, KTRK Political Consultant.

It is a plan that obviously does not sit well with Democrats. Nobody representing the Harris County Democratic party could go on camera today, but State Representative Sylvester Turner did say, "It is deeply troubling that this map would apparently violate the Voting Rights Act in an attempt to silence the voice of our minority communities by combining two districts of incumbents in Houston."

And State Representative Carol Alvarado said she believes, "There is a major deficiency in taking Harris County down from 25 districts to 24 districts. It is important that Harris County be able to maintain its 25 House districts in order to best represent our constituents."

Will this map be the final one voted on before the end of May? Even Republicans think that is unlikely.

"Probably. I think we'll end up with 25 districts. I don't think any Republican or Democrat in Harris County is supportive of a plan that reduces the representation in the county," Woodfill said.

If legislators do not agree on a final map before the end of May, a redistricting board will redraw the lines. Either way, the map will need Justice Department approval, and chances are one side or the other will take the map to court at some point.

As the state wrestles with redistricting, the city of Houston is going through its own redistricting battle. The city is adding two new council seats: J and K. The current proposed maps would significantly change the way districts are drawn both west and southwest of downtown. Hispanic community leaders want more leadership on City Council and say the changes would make it nearly impossible for a Hispanic candidate to win in either of the two new districts.

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