State House Redistribution Debate Centers on West Texas

State House Redistribution Debate Centers on West Texas

Anum Valliani 

NewsWest 9

SAN ANTONIO - A political battle is raging in the Alamo City, and the purpose is to give minorities a voice that some believe may have become silenced despite their growth in the state.

Representatives are urging federal judges to redraw House district lines to create a couple of entirely new ones that have a predominately Hispanic voter base.

Midland-Odessa and Lubbock are two places that democratic representatives are fighting to redistrict.

The efforts are largely headed by State Representative Roberto Alonzo (D) of District 104 in Dallas. He said there's enough evidence that the population is large enough in West Texas to warrant a re-mapping. Settling on the new lines could directly translate into an elected official standing for previously unrepresented groups in the state House of Representatives, and perhaps indirectly, nationally.

The proposed district would cover the area between Howard and Reeves Counties.

"That means there's an opportunity and to have an opportunity to win, you've gotta meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act," Alonzo explained.

Issues related to the governments execution of that act have been brewing for some time. Alonzo said the redistricting debate pops up on average every 10 years, and is a result of racial tensions flaring up. This latest one has been a three-year battle, and counting. According to Alonzo, a couple of years ago, judges in Washington claimed the way Texas had been mapped out discriminated racial minorities. Even locally, officials say former contention on the matter changed the area.

"There's probably been tens of lawsuits based on the Voting Rights Act that before you had zero Mexican Americans elected to political office. Now you have a number of Mexican Americans elected in that area at the County Commissioner level, JP level, school board level, city council level," he said.

Now Alonzo wants to take it up a notch; to where Hispanics can have the opportunity to elect state officials. A nearly identical issue is how he got his start years ago.

"They drew them in a way where Hispanic opportunity districts were not allowed, so we went to court. By the time the elections were held in 2002, lo and behold, there they were. There was an opportunity to elect a person in a Hispanic community. I ran, and I won, and I've been a state rep for 16 years," he said.

He's just hoping to be a part of a similar feat this time. "We go to battle at the legislative level, present our case, make our arguments. That's what democracy is all about and I'm happy we have it, I'm happy we're in a country where we're allowed to do that," he said.

Alonzo believes the trial will last a couple of weeks, then land in the court of appeals for about a year, ultimately going up to Supreme Court for the final say, all in time for the 2014 elections.