The Redistricting Battle in Harris County – How Lines Get Drawn Determines Whether a Community’s Voice Gets Heard?

Harris County

Vidya Sethuraman
India Post News Service

Texas is ground zero in the national struggle to secure voting rights, but how district lines get drawn in Harris County will determine whether voters can elect leaders who represent their interests. EMS briefing on June 30 explored the impact of redistricting on communities traditionally excluded from having a political voice and what activists are doing to engage more people in drawing maps.

Redistricting is dividing up a jurisdiction (like a state, county, or city) into pieces that elect representatives.

As a Mexican immigrant who has lived in the Lakewood neighborhood in northeast Houston for the past 39 years, Myrtala Tristan began the meeting with the story of her family’s battle with Hurricane Harvey in 2017. She criticized the government for not helping the people. She said the government didn’t help her during the hurricane. Tristan’s story is one of the prime examples of the government’s lack of infrastructure and budget during natural disasters, but the central issue is the uneven distribution of districts.

Nina Perales, Vice President of Litigation, Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund spoke on how redistricting discriminates and what we can do about it. She outlined the purpose of dividing the district every 10 years so that people could elect the local electors fairly. District elections are important because they affect local elections and it can make a huge difference to the quality of life of communities,” she added. Everybody can participate in this redistricting irrespective of their immigration status to make sure our rights are respected and the neighborhood is properly divided,” she added. In Texas, where people live in the county, the county officials draw the district. At the state level, the lower house, the senate, and the board of education, will be in charge of drawing political boundaries.

Debbie Chen, OCA-Greater Houston spoke on how AAPIs fought back against efforts to disenfranchise them. She stressed and made clear the importance of census taking to make sure that everyone, of all ethnicities, and of all ages, is counted, as it is directly related to the division of the district. She said the division of territories must be done publicly to ensure fairness. The district redraw hearing needs to be held transparently and interpreters are needed to assist immigrants. 

Roshawn Evans, Co-founder, Pure Justice said redistricting is a difficult job because every party wants to cut the part of the map of the district that benefits them, not care about what the people need. Participating in the redrawing of the territory is necessary. The voice and opinion of the people need to be respected for a fair election.