Alternatives to Redistricting (Transcript)

By Jim Fry
Published July 9th 2003 in Texas Cable News
The redistricting upheaval in Austin is a partisan power play...that used to be as predictable as the census. This year, the heat is turned up higher...with the battle now being waged between census periods. Other states go through similar struggles. Now, however, there's a move afoot in Washington to end it.

Washington correspondent Jim Fry reports:

In May, Democratic lawmakers flee Austin:

'Is Democracy going to win out over excessive greed?'

And Republican sympathizers squawk back:

'Baaaa-q, baaaaa-q, baaaaaa-q-- Chicken 'Ds.'

By midsummer the redistricting rancor spills out into public hearings.

In a small office outside Washington:

'Hi, my name is Dawn Williams and I'm calling for the Center for Voting and Democracy--'

An advocacy group is closely watching the Texas upheaval:

'It's had, perhaps, the worst partisan gerrymander in the country in '91-'92. And what's going on right now could make it the poster child for the problem in this decade as well.'

Rob Richie says Texas packs like-minded voters together...
...creating safe havens for Republicans like firebrand Tom DeLay...
...and the very conservative John Culberson...
...and Democratic loyalists like Freshman Chris Bell. The reformer blames single member districts:
'And that the idea that just because I live next to someone that I absolutely should have the same representative really doesn't make sense in the modern world.'

Richie suggests 'cumulative voting:
'You take individual districts Culberson's and DeLay's safe Republican areas and Bell's Democrat precincts...and combine them...electing three to Congress...the three highest vote getters in the one large district. Even in stacked least one winner would be from the other party...’

...Richie says it gives most everybody some voice in Congress:

‘The 70 percent majority can't deny at least one out of three seats to that grouping--the 25 to 30 percent grouping.'

The voter advocacy group says this could reduce the partisan manipulation of district lines. The problem? A majority in Congress must vote to end the single member districts which put it in power.