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The redistricting commission idea rides again

Jeff Wentworth is no longer in the Senate, but his signature idea for a bipartisan redistricting commission still lives, now in an expanded form.

Rep. Rafael Anchia

State Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas) filed a proposed constitutional amendment Wednesday that would move responsibility for both congressional and legislative redistricting in Texas to a 7-person, bipartisan commission.

The proposed amendment is notably broader than proposals pushed for over a decade by former State Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) which would have applied only to congressional redistricting.

Under the Anchia amendment (H.J.R. 116), the seven-member commission would consist of:

  1. one member appointed by the most senior state senator
  2. one member appointed by the most senior state senator who is not a member of the same party as the senior most senator
  3.  one member appointed by the senior most state representative
  4. one member appointed by the most senior state representative who is not a member of the same party as the senior most state representative
  5. one member elected by majority vote of the four members above
  6. two members who are retired federal judges selected by member #5, with the additional requirement that the two judges must have been appointed to the bench by presidents of different political parties.

Members of the commission could not be elected or appointed public officials, political party officials, or lobbyists or be employed by officeholders or candidates.  Close relatives of public officials also would be excluded.  In addition, commission members would be prohibited from running for the state legislature for three years following adoption of a map.

The amendment also imposes a number of substantive redistricting standards, including a requirement that legislative districts not contain a population deviation of more than 2.5% and a requirement that “to the extent reasonable, district boundaries … coincide with the political subdivisions of the state and divide the smallest number of counties, municipalities, and school districts possible.”

I’m glad to see Rep. Anchia make this a constitutional amendment that includes legislative redistricting and not just Congressional redistricting. I always thought that was a flaw in Wentworth’s plan. Sure, that makes this a tougher lift since it now requires a 2/3 majority to be passed, but it also arguably makes it easier to make the case for it. The only question I have is why Rep. Anchia didn’t include SBOE redistricting in the joint resolution as well. Admittedly, SBOE redistricting seems to be less contentious, presumably because no one in the Lege is thinking about running for one of those seats some day, but why not make a clean sweep of it? Not a big deal, I’m just curious. Anyway, I’m sure this has about the same chance of success as Wentworth’s efforts did, but it’s still worth filing. Given that the Lege has never drawn maps that weren’t successfully challenged in court, this is an idea whose time has come.

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