East Texans who spoke at a public hearing of the Special Senate Committee on Redistricting Friday, Jan. 29, each called for a fair drawing of lines and an end to gerrymandering.
The region which includes the urban Harris County area as well as the less densely populated Piney Woods contains several senate districts. Robert Nichols, who represents Senate District 3 was present at the meeting.
Former Palestine Mayor Carolyn Salter, who also ran for the U.S. House as a Democrat, wants to see the demographics distributed more fairly.
“My statement before this committee today is that Texas move toward an impartial, transparent, bipartisan redistricting process,” Salter said.
Redistricting in Texas has a longstanding tradition of favoring a single party, Salter said, that has favored Republican interests for the past 20 years.
“Gerrymandering in Texas Districts from the congressional, to the statehouse, to the senate levels has led to non-competitive races, non-responsiveness to constituents and has not produced prosperity in our rural areas,” Salter said.
Jennifer Vick, who gave her address simply as Senate District 3, also called for a fair shaping of the districts.
“I originally grew up in SD 1 and in the gerrymandering that happened in the last redistricting our voices have not been heard in SD 1 or SD 3,” Vick said.
SD 3 has been in Republican control since Drew Nixon won it in 1994, he was followed by Todd Staples and 2000. Nichols first won the seat in 2006.
At the hearing, Texas State Demographer Lloyd Potter gave preliminary numbers for the East Texas region, based on 2020 estimates. Henderson County is in the middle range of total population growth, but closer to the top of the state’s counties in percentage population growth.
Henderson County sits in the upper northwest part of SD 3. The most rapid population increases in the district are in Montgomery County.
Potter explained that census tracts which are the smallest territorial entities used by the Census for analyzing populations. If a tract grows beyond a certain population, it is split to form another tract. Henderson County has some tracts that are likely to be split, when the official Census data is released. These areas are around Lake Palestine east of Athens and on the north side of Cedar Creek Lake.