The redistricting debate in the Texas House of Representatives is heating up with local lawmakers upset over the proposed district lines. Local State Representatives Charles Perry, District 83, and Jim Landtroop, District 85, are fighting the proposed map saying it's silencing West Texas interests.
"You can draw maps to protect the representation of the people. I think right now we have a map that protects politicians," said Landtroop.
Both Landtroop and Perry say the House Redistricting Committee's proposed map is based on political agendas, and doesn't accurately give the South Plains the representation it deserves. "The map that's being done by the Redistricting Committee is just an inefficient use of space," said Perry.
There are 150 House districts in Texas with one elected representative for each, and every ten years after the Census those districts are redrawn to accommodate population changes. The 2010 Census shows a population loss for counties in West Texas and growth elsewhere. Consequently that means fewer representatives for the West Texas area.
"This doesn't really come as a surprise. We knew this was a possibility months ago. We're willing to accept to lose one seat, but when they try to take away three, that's unacceptable," said Landtroop.
Currently Landtroop's District covers 16 counties including Hale, Lynn, Garza, Crosby and Terry. Perry represents part of Lubbock County and four others, while State Rep. John Frullo's District 84 is mainly just Lubbock.
With the new proposed map Frullo's district remains the same, while Perry and Landtroop's, Dist. 85 and 83, would be grouped together and eliminate one of their seats.
If this were to happen, good friends and roommates Perry and Landtroop would be running against each other during the next election. While that takes away one voice, they say West Texas will lose even more if the map passes the House vote.
"This map I think unfairly damages the hundreds of thousands of people that live out in this area," said Landtroop.
The proposed committee map creates a new District 88 that would group counties as far West as Terry County with a district near Fort Worth. Perry says that would potentially silence those counties' West Texas interest.
State Rep. Warren Chisum's current District 88 in the Panhandle would be dissolved into other districts nearby.
"This is serious business," said Perry. "We can't sit idly by as a community, as a region, as an area when there are viable alternatives."
West Texas Representatives have created several other maps that would only call for losing one seat rather than three. Since Chisum is already planning on stepping down to run for the Rail Road Commission, his district would be the one West Texas would lose, but Landtroop's would be kept alive by taking over some of the counties in Chisum's current district.
"There are several maps we have for this region specifically that do not pair Jim and I and do not run counties in the South Plains over to Fort Worth," said Perry.
"They don't create an open district and maximize the voting strength of the people in this area," continued Landtroop.
Perry says the committee could bring its proposed map before the House as early as next week, but the map would still have a ways to go before being set in stone.
"What we do with this process sets the next ten years for all types of representative forms, and if we dilute that unnecessarily we've diluted our voice," he said.
Both Perry and Landtroop are encouraging people in West Texas to contact their local state representatives and senators to voice their concerns over the redistricting debate. To find your local representative's contact information (click here.)
To view the current House District map and proposed changes (click here.)
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