An independent redistricting commission is essential to the preservation of our democracy.
After signing the United States Constitution in 1787, as Benjamin Franklin was leaving the building, he was asked, “What have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Our founders put control of our government in our hands by allowing us to vote for the people we want to represent us. But today, in both political parties, gerrymandering has stolen our vote and placed it in the hands of relatively few voters. Partisan gerrymandering has resulted in legislators choosing their voters rather than voters choosing their legislators, with the primary goal of preserving legislative control by the majority party. Consequently, most legislative and congressional races are decided in the primary, with few competitive races on the ballot in the general election.
When elections are decided in primaries and not in general elections, the extremes in both parties are in control. We see the evidence of this every day: a divided government that is unwilling or incapable of making the necessary compromises to govern effectively. Gridlock becomes the norm as governing is reduced to a battle between the extremes of both parties.
As former members of the U.S. Congress, we are very concerned about the future of our republic. Some of us served before compromise became unthinkable, and some as divisions grew wider, but none of us thought the government would be as broken as it is today. We know that if states like Texas continue to approach redistricting as they have in the past, the problem will only grow worse.
Several bills have already been introduced in this session of the Texas Legislature addressing the redrawing of congressional and state district boundaries after the 2020 census. We respectively ask legislators to consider Benjamin Franklin’s wise warning and are proposing the following “We the People” plan:
A bi-partisan commission, independent of the Texas Legislature, tasked with redrawing congressional and legislative lines following decennial censuses. The mandate of the commission would be to draw districts considering seven factors:
1. Compliance with U.S. Constitution and the Voting Rights Act; 2. Districts equal in population; 3. Districts that are compact and contiguous; 4. Districts that respect communities of interest; 5. Districts that incorporate visible geographic features, such as city and county boundaries, and undivided census tracts;
6. Districts formed without consideration of incumbency or candidacy; 7. Districts that are electorally competitive, as long as the aforementioned criteria are satisfied.
We have seen in a very up close and personal manner what happens when redistricting becomes solely driven by partisanship. To restore confidence in democracy, the electoral process must be above reproach. Twenty-one states have some form of non-partisan or bi-partisan redistricting commissions. The “We the People” plan will allow Texas to join those states that have proven the redistricting process can be changed successfully. We must now do our part for the republic, if we want to keep it.
Former Texas Members of Congress:
Mike Andrews, Chris Bell, John Bryant, Jim Chapman, Martin Frost, Charles Gonzalez, Gene Green, Nick Lampson, Solomon Ortiz, Silvestre Reyes, Ciro Rodriguez, Max Sandlin, Bill Sarpalius, Charlie Stenholm, Jim Turner, Craig Washington.