Travis County gerrymanderingIn 2014, during the last gubernatorial election, less than 35% of Texas’ registered voters participated in selecting the person who would serve as our next Governor. While the winner received a clear majority of votes out of the 35% of ballots cast, the total number of voters who actually affirmed the winner’s vision for Texas was a small fraction of registered voters. This is a problem–not just because it casts doubt on whether our elected representatives actually reflect the views of the majority of Texans, but also because it demonstrates that our elections are becoming more and more anti-democratic.

In Texas, we elect our state representatives from 150 state house districts and 31 state senate districts. State electoral boundaries are redrawn every ten years following the dissemination of the United States Census to accommodate population growth and/or shifts, and to comply with the U.S. Constitution’s one-person, one-vote rule. Article 3, section 28 of the Texas Constitution assigns the task of drawing our districts first to the Texas Legislature. This means that politicians who are most interested in the outcome are put in charge of the process.

Since the current party establishment has been in charge of redistricting beginning in 2001, the percentage of voters who turn out to vote in gubernatorial elections has hovered around 35%. Before that, the average was closer to 50%. In 1990, for example, when Governor Ann Richards was elected, the turn out was 50.55% of registered voters. Likewise, when George W. Bush was elected in 1994, turn out was 50.87%.

The antidote to absolute power is the ballot box. Unless we change our redistricting process, however, the antidote will continue to be placed very deliberately beyond our reach. There are several states that have recognized the toxicity of gerrymandering. Arizona, Ohio, and California have all banned gerrymandering by popular vote. In those states, the task of redistricting is taken out of the hands of legislators and given to an independent commission. It can be done, and with your help, I will work to get it done.