Texans Warm to Redistricting Reform
Sen. Wentworth greets new poll numbers
By Richard Whittaker,
2:54PM, Fri. Feb. 24, 2012
Amidst the carnage of redistricting, some unsurprising news: A large number of Texans want the way the state draws districts reformed. That's music to the ears of Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, who has been trying to get the system changed for nearly a decade.
According to a new statewide poll from University of Texas and the Texas Tribune, 42% of the 800 respondents supported taking redistricting out of the legislative process and handing it over to an appointed commission. Only 30% backed the status quo, with the rest undecided.
"I'm encouraged by the results of the poll," said Wentworth. "I believe that clearly the pain and the chaos that we're going through this year is having some effect in people's attitudes and opinions about this issue."
This new support for a change gives a Greek chorus of support to Wentworth, who has long been Texas' redistricting Cassandra. Last session, he authored Senate Bill 22, which would have established a bipartisan committee – four Republicans, four Democrats and a ninth non-voting president appointed by the members – to draw Congressional districts (the Texas Constitution would need to be amended to change the rules on House and Senate redistricting). Looking back on the last few months of carnage, he added that "we could have avoided nearly all of this if we'd adopted my suggestion during this regular session."
Wentworth is already planning to bring the measure back next session (if he survives re-election, obviously). He's already getting positive feedback from other lawmakers about the chances for reform in 2013. He said, "That's what gives me considerable hope." However, he also better hope it will be fourth time the charm. He got the same measure out of the Senate in 2005 and 2007, but it always sputtered out on the other side of the Dome. "The House doesn't seem to get it done," he said, "but the Senate has done it three times, and I'm hopeful we'll do it again and maybe we can get the House to go along with us as well."