, Port Arthur, Texas

October 16, 2010

Editorial: Redistricting and the Golden Triangle

The Port Arthur News

NEDERLAND — The political influence of the Golden Triangle has been on a steady decline since the likes of U.S. Reps. Jack Brooks and Nick Lampson, State Sens. Carl Parker and David Bernsen, and a host of state representatives, four or maybe five at a time, were guarding our interests in the seats of government.

Allan Ritter, D-Nederland; Joe Deshotel, D-Beaumont, and Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, are all smart, effective and experienced representatives looking out for our interests in the State House, but no longer does anyone from the Golden Triangle represent us in the Texas Senate or the U.S. House.

The Senate seat once held by Parker and Bernsen was carved up by the gerrymander knife so that Port Arthur was stuck in Senate District 17, which is more than 100 miles long and a few miles wide and looks sort of like a question mark on its back. Beaumont was left in Senate District 4 but the partisan map drawers made sure there were more than enough votes from the Houston area to offset the votes from Beaumont and Orange.

The same art of the squiggly line was applied to the map of the district that once allowed someone from this area to represent this area in Washington, D.C. The way the district map is now, our representatives is almost assured of coming from the East Houston area.

There were lawsuits filed after the redistricting that followed the 2000 census. Federal courts astonishingly ruled that the voting rights of minorities were not diluted by the new district lines, and politics is allowable as a consideration when the lines of a political district are drawn. It’s known as “to the victor goes the spoils,” and Republicans were determined to dilute the voting power of historically Democratic-voting Southeast Texas.

Now a new census has been conducted and a new process of drawing political district lines is beginning. The state has gained population, but this area has not. The only way we can maintain the political representation we have now is to become involved in the process.

A public hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Lamar University in the Richard Price Auditorium, John Gray Center, on the Lamar University campus, 855 E. Florida Ave. It will be a chance to make our voices heard and to become educated about the process that will determine how we are represented in Austin and Washington for the next decade. We hope a strong showing Monday will send a message that the people of this area are watching to make sure we are treated fairly in this year’s redistricting process.