Eight men (and women) in
Thu April 14, 2011 3:04 pm

A House redistricting map with eight empty seats raised some eyebrows. My first thought was that the leadership wanted to recruit their own candidates for these districts. The fact is, five of the new seats were the result of population growth (one each in Tarrant, Denton, Collin, Williamson, and Fort Bend counties). The Williamson county open seat occurred because it was necessary to join the forgotten counties --Burnet on the west, Milam on the east -- that were stranded on either side of Williamson in a district that resembles a diagram of the male reproductive system.

Another open seat (District 57) occurs in East Texas, starting in San Augustine County and snaking west through Angelina County (Lufkin). Some Republicans think that the district might have been drawn for Jim McReynolds, a popular Democratic legislator, who was defeated in in November.

These account for seven of the eight open seats. The eighth is the "domino" district that starts in the Metroplex and runs west, one county wide, ending one county from the New Mexico border. One theory about this district is that it would facilitate the Describing such a district on a congressional map many years ago, my mentor, Babe Schwartz, said, "If the congressman drove through the district with both doors of his car open, he'd kill everybody in the district." And the member who holds the seat would never have to leave U.S. 380. One theory about this district's existence is that it provides a safe harbor for high-voltage lines that would bring wind energy from West Texas to the

I suspect this redistricting map will suffer the fate of several previous efforts:

It will end up being drawn by the Legislative Redistricting Board. For those who may be unfamiliar with this process, here is what the Legislative Council web site has to say about the LRB:

Legislative Redistricting Board

The Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB), composed of the lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, attorney general, comptroller, and land commissioner, was created by constitutional amendment in 1951, at least in part to provide legislators with an incentive to redistrict after each federal decennial census. If the legislature fails to redistrict house or senate districts during the first regular session following release of the decennial census, Section 28, Article III, of the Texas Constitution requires the board to meet within 90 days of the end of that regular session and, within 60 days of convening, to adopt its own house or senate plan.

In Mauzy v. Legislative Redistricting Board, 471 S.W.2d 570 (Tex. 1971), the Texas Supreme Court interpreted the LRB's authority to arise not only when the legislature literally fails to act, but also when legislative redistricting plans are found invalid. As a result, if the legislature's plan is vetoed by the governor and the veto cannot be overridden by the legislature, or if the plan is overturned by a court challenge within the 90-day period in which the LRB is given redistricting authority, redistricting becomes the responsibility of the LRB.

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