ACT BY WEDNESDAY, APRIL 7

ISSUE

Quick Take: Testify at a Redistricting Hearing

Every 10 years after the Census, states redraw maps that show who represents whom in Congress, the Legislature, and other government bodies. The U.S. Constitution requires this redistricting to create equal representation for all Americans as the population grows and shifts. But many states use gerrymandering to draw districts that favor one political party, racial, or ethnic group over another. Texas has some of the worst gerrymandered districts in the country. The courts have had to intervene in every set of redistricting maps Texas has produced in memory. This discourages voters and wastes millions of dollars in court costs.

The redistricting process is more complicated than ever this year. Census figures, on which redistricting is based, normally are available in the spring following the Census year. But this year, the federal government bungled the Census-taking process. Attempts to correct gathered census information have taken much longer. Texas won’t get the information to redraw districts until September or October. However, the Texas Legislature is holding public hearings on redistricting now, with no information or maps available to inform testimony. That makes it vital for Texans to attend the hearings, to testify to the need for a new round of hearings next fall when proposed maps are available.

TESTIFY ABOUT REDISTRICTING

A hearing that focuses on East Texas begins at 10 AM Thursday, April 8 in the Capitol Extension Auditorium, E1.004. Although the focus is on East Texas, the committee will hear testimony about any region of the State.

Voters who want to be heard about redistricting have a couple of options in the Texas House:

  • in person or by video
  • in writing online (form)

In person or by video

You may register from now until 10 AM Wednesday April 7 (24 hours before the April 8 hearing start time). To register for an invitation, click HERE.

Note: If you miss the deadline for this hearing, you can still register to testify at one of the remaining hearings.

See ABOUT TESTIFYING IN PERSON below for meeting notes and suggestions about what to say.

In writing online

To submit written comments, click HERE. Fill in your contact information, then select a subject to comment on. The choices are:

  • 2021 redistricting/East Texas region
  • 2021 redistricting/other regions of Texas
  • Population projections/focus on East Texas region

See ABOUT TESTIFYING IN WRITING below for a suggestion of what to write.

Other notes

  • The hearing will be broadcast live HERE.
  • Safety and health protocols for attending the hearing in person can be found HERE.
  • Interpretation assistance: The deadline for requesting interpretation assistance is 72 hours in advance. However, you may register for such assistance for future redistricting hearings by calling 512-463-9948 or sending an email to TexasHouse.Redistricting@house.texas.gov.

ABOUT TESTIFYING IN PERSON

Committee Chair Rep. Todd Hunter will announce the time limit for each person’s testimony at the start of the hearing. The time allowed is usually only 2-3 minutes. Note that video witnesses must be heard and seen throughout their testimony.

Testifying Tips

Here are some tips to make the most of your (estimated) 2-3 minutes.
(Indivisible TX Lege would like to thank All On The Line Texas for its help with the testimony examples.)

First: Prepare

Write out and practice what you’re going to say before your time to testify. DO NOT WING IT.

Next: Cover the Bases

Use the KISS Rule (Keep It Simple, Sally)

  1. Thank the Committee. Tell them your name and if you represent yourself or a group.
  • EXAMPLE (A): Thank you Mr. Chairman and Committee Members. My name is _____ and I’m here to represent myself. {Describe your district and community.}
  • EXAMPLE (B): I live in the ____ area of Dallas. My neighborhood is close to _____ school where most of the kids speak English and Spanish. Our community has grown a lot in the last 10 years, but our leadership is the same.
  • EXAMPLE (C): I live in Dallas County. The population of my area has exploded. I understand that we may get a new congressional seat.
  1. Describe why gerrymandering is harmful to you.
  • EXAMPLE (A): No one has been harmed more by map manipulation and voter suppression than Black and Latino communities whose voices have been minimized at the ballot box and in Congress.
  • EXAMPLE (B): I care about addressing gun violence and believe we should expand Medicaid. Neither of these issues has been addressed. Instead, we’ve had a special session about bathrooms. I don’t get it. People in my district and across the state want solutions, not more division.
  • EXAMPLE (C): I worry about how divided we are as a country. Gerrymandering and map manipulation only make the problem worse.
  1. Say what you want from your elected leaders
  • EXAMPLE (A): I ask that maps not be manipulated in support of one party or one politician. I want redistricting in Texas to be fair and the process transparent. I want legislators to follow the Voting Rights Act and not discriminate against people of color. Finally, you seem like smart people – after the Census results are released, I expect you to find a way to come back to us with maps. Where there’s a will there’s a way. If you can’t find the way, it tells me a lot about your will.
  • EXAMPLE (B): I ask that the committee draw maps that are fair, competitive, and represent ALL Texans.
  • EXAMPLE (C): I ask that you work to end map manipulation and gerrymandering.
  • EXAMPLE (D): I’m glad you have created so many ways for the public to testify in these hearings. However, we have no information–no maps or population estimates–on which to comment. Please commit to have similar opportunities for Texans to comment once we have solid Census and other information and can base our testimony on facts.
  • EXAMPLE (E): I am worried that this series of hearings has been hastily scheduled. You gave us little time to prepare for testifying. I ask you to commit to publishing data and maps to the public as soon as they are ready. After the public has had time to digest that information, please hold a full set of hearings allowing video online, in-person and written testimony on the proposed maps. Be fair. That’s totally within your power.
  1. Thank the Committee and wait to be excused.

ABOUT TESTIFYING IN WRITING

Here’s an example of what you can write. Please feel free to modify as you like. Adding personal stories is always a plus!

The goal of redistricting should be to accomplish what the Bill of Rights guarantees: equal justice under the law. Texas is an enormous state with a wide variety of people, cultures, and needs. The only way to achieve equal justice is to, as much as possible, create politically neutral districts that reflect the needs of protected communities so they have the representation they deserve. 

Gerrymandering is a political process that draws district maps to favor one party, ethnic group or race. Gerrymandered districts do not respect the needs of voters, just politicians and powerful corporate interests. Spanning great spaces of rural real estate to connect two pieces of urban areas or carving slices of urban and rural communities to create districts harms communities. Urban, rural, poor and wealthy, white and non-white, apartments and single family areas often do not share the same needs. Transportation, health infrastructure, judicial, environmental, and enfranchisement issues deserve caring representation.

Gerrymandering results in voter suppression and disenfranchisement. No groups have been harmed more by map manipulation and voter suppression than Black, Latino, disadvantaged, and disability communities. Their voices have been minimized in the ballot box and in Congress. This is blatantly unfair.

I ask that you do not manipulate maps in support of one party or one politician. I want redistricting in Texas to be fair and the process transparent. I want legislators to follow the Voting Rights Act and not discriminate against people of color.

Also, I am worried that this series of hearings has been hastily scheduled. You gave the public very little time to prepare for testifying. 

Finally, after the Census results are released, I ask you to commit to publicly publish data and maps as soon as they are ready.  After the public has had time to digest that information, I ask that you hold a full set of hearings that will allow video online, in-person, and written testimony on the proposed maps. Be fair. That’s totally within your power.

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