HowGerrymandering has contributed to lack of competition in Texas Senateraces
Gerrymanderingis the practice of dividing a geographic region into severaldistricts. This division aims at increasing the number of legislativeseats to provide a political advantage to a particular group orparty. The political position will then create safe seats for theparty’s incumbent legislators. Either packing or cracking can dogerrymandering. In packing, voters of one party are concentrated intoa few representative districts as possible. This concentration of theelectorate reduces their influence over the other areas. Cracking, onthe other hand, reduces the voting power of a particular group ofvoters by spreading their votes through several districts. Crackingachieves this by splitting the population of community across thedistricts so that they become a significant minority.
Packingreduces competition since concentrating voters of a particular partyto as few districts as possible means that they can only haveinfluence over those areas and small representation in the otherregions. Splitting population of voters of a particular party acrossthe districts through cracking also reduces their competitiveadvantage since the party has minimal representation across thesedistricts. The party then becomes a minority in either of the cases.There is, however, a need for equal representation in every region toensure fairness. Equality can be achieved through redistricting whichrefers to a way of adjusting the district boundaries to determine whowill represent them since most of the federal, local and all of thestate legislators in counties and towns get elected from thedistricts. Redistricting is carried out as directed by the Article 1,Section 2 of the United States Constitution where a census is doneafter every ten years. The updated population data is then used toreapportion seats in the House of Representatives amid the fiftystates (McDonald, 2014).
Texashas been facing decades of gerrymandering by Democrats who haveenjoyed a majority of the seats. This meant that Hispanics,African-Americans, and other minority groups had limitedrepresentation in the House of Representatives since they wereaffiliated with the Republican Party. However, the situation changedwhen Republicans won both houses of the state legislature in 2002.The Republican Party took advantage of the opportunity and changedthe congressional districting lines. The move was an attempt toimprove the role of districts after a long fight againstgerrymandering. Just like California, Texas is now aminority-majority state which means that the minority groupsrepresent a majority of the state.
Otherreasons for the lack of competitiveness in the Texas state elections
Althoughgerrymandering was a major factor that led to the lack ofcompetitiveness in the state of Texas, other factors contributed toit too. These factors have been explained using different hypotheses.The factors include the presence of one-party dominance in the state,the degree of competitiveness in state legislative elections, theamount of compensation given to a state legislator and the size of alegislative district. All these factors will determine the level ofcompetitiveness during a state election.
Partisancontrol in Texas had remained dominant by the Democratic Party whoheld a disproportionate sway over the politics of the region sincethey had representation in most of the districts. The outcome leftthe Republican Party not standing a chance in the overall tally. Thisone-party control discouraged competition.
Thesmaller the district sizes, the higher the rate of competition. Thistheory is practical in that potential state legislators will be ableto challenge incumbents because the districts represent smallerpopulation sizes. The smaller area population will, therefore, beeasier to contest and win. This was not the case before the 2002Republican redistricting act which saw a change in the congressionaldistrict lines in Texas. Before the redistricting bill, Texas lackedcompetition during house elections.
Anincrease of compensation results in an increase in the level ofcompetition. This theory is supported by the fact that potentialstate legislators will be more likely to challenge the incumbents oreven contest for an open seat if the amount of compensation theyreceive is increased. The possible lawmakers will first consider thesalaries and benefits offered by the position before running for thepost.
Howto reform the redistricting process in Texas to eliminategerrymandering
Modifyingthe legislative electoral boundaries in Texas to ensure that thedistricts have an equal population density of voters is the best wayto eliminate gerrymandering. However, this process of modificationmust be conducted in the right manner. Some of the redistrictingprocess reform are as discussed below.
Asa state legislature, use of computer-based approach will be a greatsolution to this problem. The method will use integer programming toselect districts. This approach will reduce bias during theredistricting process making districts have an equal populationwithin a sensible standard. The plan will also not dilute the votingstrength of members intentionally according to ethnic group, racialbackground or a minority group (McDonald, 2014).
Anothernon-political strategy that can be adopted is to considerredistricting while observing and being consistent with the naturalboundaries as marked by streets and established routes oftransportation. This will help to preserve well-defined communitieswhich will necessitate insubstantial inequalities in the districtspopulation. These approaches will assist the house elections in thestate of Texas to become more competitive.
Gerrymanderinghas been a major determinant in the outcome of the House electionsacross different states in America. This has led to an unhealthycompetition between incumbents and potential candidates. Over therecent years, competition has been improved by introducingredistricting to do away with gerrymandering as seen in the state ofTexas. It should, however, be noted that other factors also result inthe lack of competition in the Senate races apart fromgerrymandering. A redistricting process reform will be essential indealing with this issue.
McDonald,M.P. 2014. “A comparative Analysis of Redistricting Institutions inthe United States, 2001-02.” State Politics &Policy Quarterly4(4): 371-395.