Local

Redistricting Hinges On Legislative Majority

By Jay Gormley, CBS 11 News
Palo Pinto County election volunteers check-in a registered voter at the Palo Pinto County 4-H Building on November 4, 2008 in Palo Pinto, Texas. (credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Palo Pinto County election volunteers check-in a registered voter at the Palo Pinto County 4-H Building on November 4, 2008 in Palo Pinto, Texas. (credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Early voting for the Nov. 2 election has already begun, but what many may not realize is that their votes will decide how Congressional Districts are drawn.

“Oh, it’s bloody warfare,” said Prof. Alan Saxe of the University of Texas at Arlington’s Political Science faculty. “Of all the subjects that really energize the Legislature, it’s redistricting.”

Every ten years, the Texas Legislature redraws Congressional lines. There are 32 Congressional Districts in the state. But a population boost in the 2010 Census is likely to add three to four new districts in the state.

Which ever political party gets control of the state legislature is going to have a tremendous impact on how those new districts are drawn and when you create new ones, it’s going to impact the old ones,” Saxe said.

Republicans hold a slim majority in the Texas House of Representatives and are looking to cash in on voter backlash against President Barack Obama.

“It’s very tight,” said Jonathan Neerman, spokesman for the Dallas County Republican Party. “Republicans have a four seat lead right now. We’re hoping for at least a plus-five coming out of this election to have a greater control over the State House.”

If that happens, Republicans are likely to draw up the Congressional Districts to ensure their candidates have an edge in future elections. If Democrats take that control, they would likely do the same, especially in Tarrant County.

“Tarrant County is the largest county in the entire country that does not have a congressional district that is specifically drawn to represent minority citizens,” said Stephen Maxwell, Tarrant County Democratic Party Chair.

In 2003, Republicans drew up new District lines seven years early, which means if the Republicans can maintain or increase their majority in the election, they will likely overpower the more Democratic districts in the state.