The House Committee on Redistricting met in San Antonio on September 12, 2019 to discuss the upcoming redistricting process and to receive feedback from constituents.
This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight of the discussions on the various topics the committee took up. This report is not a verbatim transcript of the hearing; it is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer and the desire to get details out as quickly as possible with few errors or omissions.
Rep. Phil King Opening Comments
- We do not get final census data until early 2021.
- This only gives us a few months to complete maps for elections.
- We won’t have time for hearings after receiving the census data – so instead we will preempt that.
- When we provide population numbers or maps today, those are simply estimates and projections.
- Final numbers will be different from those we work with today.
- April 1 of 2020 is census day across the country.
- December 31, 2020 is the deadline for congressional districts to be apportioned in each state.
- The Census Bureau says Texas data will be given to us late February or early March.
- Their deadline is April 1, but we are told larger states take priority.
- Similar to a bill, the census must pass the House, Senate, and be signed by the Governor.
Rep. Ina Minjarez Opening Comments
- I have a letter from Rep. Phillip Cortez who could not be present today; the letter thanks the committee for holding the hearing in San Antonio.
Lloyd Potter, Texas State Demographer
- I have been impressed with the committee’s desire to receive input from communities.
- My presentation will be uploaded on the official demographer’s website.
- There are about 1000 new Texans a day, half of them are newborns.
- It is important we get a complete count for the census for these reasons:
- Apportionment is determined according to these numbers.
- It will influence the number of electoral college votes Texas gets.
- Other boundaries, such as school districts and city council, are determined by this.
- 2018 estimates put us at 29 million in population.
- We believe we are above that now.
- We anticipate gaining an additional 3 congressional seats.
- The challenge for representatives drawing house districts is to capture around 197,000 in each district.
- By 2020, the Latino and Non-Hispanic White population will be fairly even.
- The Hispanic population contributed over half of the population growth from 2010-2020.
- These shifts give insight to considerations of voting rights.
Karen White, Texas Legislative Council
- The numbers I present today are based on surveys older than Dr. Potter’s maps.
- 2018 estimates show the state is growing at 14%.
- Main growth in the state is centered around Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.
- Midland and Odessa also showed some growth.
- Rules for congressional districts are very different than those for SBOE districts.
- Congressional districts are based strictly on population.
- SBOE considers other weights.
- Our maps give a general idea of changes in the state, but they are estimates.
- The Texas legislature redistricting website provides information on the process of redistricting.
- The “who represents me” link provides contact information for your representatives.
- “District viewer” provides current district maps and relevant info.
- Red Apple is a system that is critical for the redistricting process.
- Training will begin soon.
- Moody: If we had a plan that we wanted to share with another member, the legislative council would have to make that information public in order for that member to view it, correct?
- With the Red Apple system, you can work offline or online.
- Moody: I don’t have to work with the legislative council unless I seek help?
- In your Red Apple account, you can save your plan to the legislature’s server or you can save your work internally.
- Moody: Is the legislative council going to actively review those we save internally for violations of the law?
- Moody: Only when we specifically ask for that help, will we get that help.
- Moody: Is there any member that would get that help without asking?
Adriana Rocha Garcia, City Councilwoman San Antonio
- Thank you, representatives, for your service to our state.
- We are meeting at the former Kelly Air Force Base.
- When it was recommended that Kelly be closed, many in our community were devastated.
- Since then, we have developed Port San Antonio and are proud of its accomplishments.
- We are grateful for grants from the State of Texas that have aided in development.
- My colleagues are committed to being your helpful resource.
- A 53-member committee was appointed and charged with reaching all members of our community with a particular focus on the 25% of the population that have been historically undercounted based on US statistics.
- We have launched https://www.sabexarcountmein.org/ as a census resource.
- Turner: How much has the city budgeted for the Count Me In initiative?
- Half a million.
- Minjarez: I am concerned for seniors in our community to ensure they are not taken advantage of.
- We will have a campaign to address these issues and also will be addressing concerns of the bilingual community.
Gregory Hudspeth, San Antonio NAACP
- We are looking for a fair count.
- There is a large increase in the black and Hispanic populations in Texas.
- Lines should be drawn in such a way that represents these populations.
Gabriella Lohan, Sisters of the Holy Spirit
- We will continue to have Hispanic and black people represented fairly.
- We all deserve our rights.
Joe Gardner, Self
- The League of Women Voters want an independent citizen’s redistricting committee – I do not want that.
- They want cohesive districts – but who decides that?
- They want to stop the illegal gerrymandering of our districts – the purpose of this is to shame the committee and create illusions.
- I don’t want a separate redistricting committee, we elected you to do that.
- The future of this republic is in your hands.
Michael Nahas, Self
- I would define transparent as making all maps and data used public.
- Making communications about maps public.
- And making all entities working on those maps to make their maps, data, and communications public.
- Do you intend to follow this definition of transparency?
- King: We will make it as transparent as we can.
- Are you going to make your data, maps, and communications public?
- King: I don’t know what that means.
- King: Maps will be made public on the internet.
Jeffery McManus, Bexar Republican Party
- I encourage you to use the constitution as your guide in making redistricting decisions.
Angie Garcia, Precinct Chair 2024
- I want to thank you for being so courteous.
- You forgot to mention that the population in hospitals has to be counted.
David Cruz, Self
- In the 2018 election, only 45% of voters were Republican and yet they still controlled the House and Senate due to gerrymandering.
- Its never okay for politicians to pick their voters.
Aubrey Lewis, San Antonio NAACP
- We hope that when you draw new lines you take into consideration the growth taking place in San Antonio.
- Please make public information on the redistricting process.
Gordon Benjamin, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity
- I arrived in San Antonio in 1963.
- It seems today that some people have not learned since then.
- Our concern is that fair maps be drawn among African Americans and Latinos.
Rebecca Yost, Self
- The idea of gerrymandering has never sat right with me.
- I am requesting the State of Texas not use gerrymandering in drawing districts.
Steven Huerta, All of Us or None
- There are ten different counties in Texas where 30% of their population is the prison population.
- This gives you an inaccurate picture of the county’s development based on population growth.
- Only the representative of the county where the prisoner is from can truly represent the prisoner.
- King: Texas counts prisoners where they are on the census day.
- King: There are difficulties in counting otherwise.
- King: This is an interesting and important discussion.
Fred Rangel, Precinct Chair 3032
- Exercising fairness and transparency requires righteousness.
Robert Wilks, Self
- I request that you consider separating rural and urban groups when redistricting.
Bryan Cox, Self
- The ability to consider small communities of interest is difficult.
- If maps are not drawn in time, we don’t have the opportunity to provide testimony on changes that should be made.
TC Calvert, Bexar County Voting Rights Coalition
- You have an opportunity to change the direction of how the US has looked at Texas in terms of violating voting rights laws.
Kayla Price, Self
- I urge you to listen to underrepresented communities.
Eric Bostick, Self
- We must treat everyone fairly, especially the most vulnerable.
Alex Burnell, Move Texas
- Universities are placed in non-competitive districts.
- The UT campus is carved so that some residence halls are in separate districts so that students cannot have a united voice.
- Gerrymandering is about interests versus change.
Audrey Fisher, Self
- The State of Texas reported that growth comes with federal dollars.
- How can the comptroller then say that we must cut our budgets?
Maria Stevenson Greene, NAACP
- Texas has a history of voter suppression.
- The legislature cannot afford to ignore the context of race in America when drawing district lines.
Rick Brisco, Self
- I urge the governor to call a special session to address this particular subject of redistricting.
Tomas Loralde, Representing Senator Menendez
- Last session Sen. Menendez filed a bill that would take the redistricting process away from the legislators and into the hands of an independent commission.
- This would allow citizens to make the lines.
- Other states have gone in this direction and it has taken the politics out of this process.
Cynthia Brehm, Bexar County Republican Party
- You have an opportunity as legislators to create a map that is representative of the people.
- Zero conservatives were present in your meeting in Austin.
- Turner: There are eight Republican members and seven Democratic members on the committee.
- I was told there was a meeting held yesterday with zero conservatives present.
- That is not bipartisan.
- Turner: They might have been referring to those testifying.
Theresa Ho, Move Texas
- Please redraw the maps fairly to serve the community.
Lauren McClaird. Self
- I’m surprised how many of you are distracted during this hearing.
- How districts are drawn affects every issue of concern to citizens.
Eugenio Rodriguez, Self
- The people that most need representation don’t have it.
Manuel Garza, Self
- I have been involved with voting rights cases since 1965.
- Please consider:
- Reinstating the voter rights act.
- Creating a Texas voter rights act.
- Stop discriminating against people of color and women.
- End racial and political gerrymandering.
- Involve the community in the districting process.
George Korbel, Self
- Since 1970 a bill has never passed that stood up in litigation.
- In 2010, it was found that redistricting had racially discriminated.
- Every redistricting bill I’ve seen has no cost analysis.
- They should be treated like a real bill.
- When you do the redistricting, don’t hire political operatives to do it.
Joshua Woody, Represent Us San Antonio
- Thank you for having these meetings in public.
- Promise to the people of Texas not to let any voter party data influence final district lines.
Marinela Murino, Self
- I urge you to avoid race-based redistricting.
- Allow us to participate in the redistricting process.
Fatima Menendez, MALDEF
- In the upcoming round of Texas redistricting, Latino participation is more important than ever before.
- The process should be transparent.
- New voting boundaries should not dilute the minority vote.
- White: What do you think is the driver of racial motivated redistricting?
- I would rather another representative from MALDEF who is more familiar with that topic answer that question.
- We will get in touch with your office.
- Turner: Your concern is that amendments change the final product.
- Yes, that floor amendments are being used in a strategic manner to undermine the process.
- Walle: The term racially polarized voting is an academic term that certainly has a definition.
- Walle: What is that definition?
- Where racial groups are packed together so their interest is diluted.
- Walle: It is a known fact that certain communities will not vote outside of their box.