June 24, 2013 by  
Filed under Blogs, Hot Button / Lynn Ashby

Who’s your member of the US Congress? Who represents you (or in no way represents you) in the Texas Legislature? Here’s one almost no Texan can answer: who is your elected member on the State Board of Education – that embarrassment before the nation? Don’t feel unworthy if you don’t know the answers. Texans don’t know and don’t care, and don’t take my word for it. According to a study by the Annette Strauss Institute for Civic Life at the University of Texas at Austin and the National Conference on Citizenship, Texas ranked 51st in voter turnout in 2010 — behind all other states and Washington, D.C. And we care so little about what the winners do after taking office that we were 49th in the number of citizens who even bothered to contact public officials. (In a sad sidelight which has nothing to do with our current conversation, we ranked 43rd in donating and 42nd in volunteering.) Getting back to our non-voting, 61.6 percent of eligible Texans reported being registered to vote in 2010, but just 36.4 percent said they actually voted. UT journalism professor Regina Lawrence, director of the Strauss Institute, said that figure means a “really active one-third” of the voting-eligible population is exerting “outsized influence.” That’s just what I was telling Ted Cruz. Why such a lousy turnout? It’s by design, say the researchers and others who study Texas’s voter turnouts. We have a long history of keeping minorities away from the ballot boxes. Even today the transparent barrier of voter ID is still being pushed, although judges say it unfairly targets minorities. Also, this is such a red state, why bother to vote? Then there’s gerrymandering, which is yet another way of making the election outcomes predictable. We can say these movements are unfair, they are un-American, and fly in the face of our Constitution. Hey, fly face, they work. The GOP in Texas and in other states is winning. Remember that Obama smashed Romney in the popular vote by one and a half million nationwide, and in the Electoral College that Kenyan socialist beat the Suit by 332 votes to 206. (Mitt Romney won Texas by 17 percentage points, a 2-point improvement from John McCain’s 2008 effort.) Nationally, Democratic candidates for the US House beat their Republican opponents by more than 1.4 million votes, but through gerrymandering, the GOP holds 234 seats to 201 for the incompetent, out-maneuvered Dems. The House of Representatives is not what you’d call representative. A prime example of gerrymandering is a ballot box near you. Texas’s non-stop redistricting fight has made a lot of lawyers prosperous, not to mention how many of our tax dollars have been blown. The fight goes up the court steps to a higher bench, then comes back down, then goes etc. Meantime, Gov. Rick Perry called a special (and expensive) extra session of the Legislature to keep his people in power. In all of this, each political party has its own maps, census counts, plans to steal the next election. It’s not just GOPers who like the current lines. In that special session, the Texas State Senate voted unanimously, every single Democrat and Republican, to keep the current senate lines. The measure should be called the Incumbents Career Security Act. It’s crazy. Take that liberal bastion, Travis County, where Obama got 60 per cent of the vote in 2012. The county has long been represented in the US House by Lloyd Doggett, a Democratic thorn in the elephant’s side. The GOP tried everything it could do to get rid of Doggett. Redistricting was the best hope, and today Travis County is in — get this – five different Congressional districts. The GOP holds four, but Doggett doggedly holds on to one of them. The Austin American-Statesman recently determined that various parts of the UT campus fall into three separate districts, which spread from Bryan (irony) to San Antonio. Some of the county’s districts go to Houston’s suburbs, one includes Corpus Christi and another almost touches the Mexican border. Thus Austin, the fourth largest city in Texas, is not dominant in any of the districts, its voters make up less than 35 percent in any of them, their voice in Congress diluted, if not muted, by lines on a map. Clearly gerrymandering is a serious problem in Texas for some. For others, it works just fine. But in case we need to re-draw the lines for our members of Congress and the Legislature so they look more like Texas rather than, say, membership in the River Oaks Country Club, let’s begin with the original premise that a district should include like-minded people who have a single representative or state senator to speak for them, vote on laws covering them, v0te on taxes, etc. I suggest we put all the lawyers in one district, all the ranchers in another, put the professors and students in another. Group all the liberals in their own districts, same with the conservatives. All the moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats are grouped in the endangered species district — a very small district. This redrawing might cause some skillful map work, but have you seen our current Congressional maps? They look like a Rorschach test. A dockworker in Port Arthur has the same Congressman as a corporate lawyer in The Woodlands. One guess as to who donates the most money and has the most influence. District 14 goes from the New Mexico border to Dallas suburbs. District 23 runs from a cozy GOP San Antonio neighborhood to the east side of El Paso. Yep, its Congressman is from that GOP neighborhood. All of these new districts might violate the US Constitution, but that is so 1780s. Who cares? Remember the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment that protects us against “unreasonable searches and seizures” has been de-coded by the NSA, which found it actually means, “You can trust us, we’re from the government.” Complain to your member of Congress, whoever that is. Ashby is hiding at ashby2@comcast.net

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