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Burka on the Census and redistricting

Paul Burka takes a look at Census figures and projections for 2010 and considers the implication for the 2011 Legislative Redistricting Board redraw of State House and State Senate lines.

There is going to be carnage in rural Texas, especially from Wichita Falls to Lubbock to Amarillo, an area currently represented by six House Republicans: Hardcastle, Jones, Isett, Chisum, Swinford, and Smithee, and only two Democratic districts (Farabee and Heflin). In East Texas, the Eltife and Nichols Senate seats are in rural areas that have not kept up with the growth rate.

On the other hand, Republicans won’t even have to gerrymander to gain seats in suburban Texas. Huge growth rates in Collin, Denton, and Montgomery counties will result in more Republican seats. The other two big suburban counties, Fort Bend and Williamson, also have high growth rates, but the growth in these counties includes Democrats as well as Republicans. Growth in urban Texas was right around the statewide average, so the Democrats will have to win seats by defeating Republicans.

I suppose that’s true. It’s a good thing that the Democrats have gotten better at that. And in Harris County, at least, a lot of the high-growth areas got a lot less red last year. The result is that what was drawn to be a 15-10 Republican advantage in the delegation became a 14-11 Democratic lead in four cycles’ time, thanks in part to Republican overreach in 2001. Don’t take anything for granted, that’s all I’m saying.

On a side note, one thought that struck me in thinking about this was that perhaps we ought to consider increasing the number of members in the House and the Senate. Assuming Burka’s population projection is accurate, each of the 150 State Rep districts will have about 168,000 people in it after the 2011 redraw. Now take a look at the 1990 Census figures. Just 20 years ago, each district had roughly 113,000 constituents. To keep that same ratio for the 2010 population you’d need 223 members. Maybe this is one reason why the cost of running for State Rep keeps going up – you have to reach more and more voters just to maintain position. And with four Congressional seats being added to bring the total to 36, the 31 Senate districts are going to become a lot more populous than Congressional ones soon. I say it’s worth considering the possibility of increasing the size of each chamber in order to keep a certain level of closeness to each elected official. What do you think?

UPDATE: Greg brings some maps.

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3 Comments

  1. Jeb says:

    The Senate Districts already are bigger than the Congressional Districts: 31 Senate vs 32 U.S. House.

    I’d like to think that the population growth in Austin will protect us from gerrymandering and allow for the Dems to pick up another Senate seat. But, if the current Congressional District plan passed judicial review with its narrow districts slicing and dicing urban, suburban, and rural areas, there aren’t many limits on drawing a district to disenfranchise people.

    Regardless, I’m encouraged that the 83d Legislature will have a more urban delegation.

  2. cb says:

    Increasing the size of the membership in the State House and Senate makes sense. Does that require a constituional amendment? When was the last time the size of the membership was increased?

  3. Paul Burka says:

    Kuff — I agree that the Senate needs to be expanded. But please, spare us from more House members.