Redistricting; Perry's performance at the GOP debate

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Overview

Redistricting

As the U.S. Department of Justice reviews the newly-drawn Texas legislative district maps, a number of lawyers have filed suit in federal district court to speed the process of judging whether or not the new lines violate the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The suit alleges racial discrimination in that the new districts were drawn to marginalize minority voters.

The new district lines also marginalize UT student voters. The new congressional district map drawn by the 82nd Legislature splits the major UT student communities into four separate districts. The current map includes most students in three districts. The new lines, for instance, separate the University campus and West Campus into two separate districts along Guadalupe St. in an obvious attempt to dilute the student vote. Currently, the two areas are included in the same district. Neither of these new districts includes the Riverside area, another student living hub, and many students living in the North Campus and Far West neighborhoods are in another district entirely.

This new plan means that students living on campus will share a representative with Texans living as far north as the Fort Worth suburb of Burleson but will not share a representative with colleagues living across the street. Moreover, students in West Campus will share a representative with Texans living as far west as Rocksprings and as far south as central San Antonio.

The new district lines present a problem to advocates of student civic participation. The student vote, already vastly underrepresented because of low turnout, has been diluted even more. To the extent that low student voting numbers are influenced by a low sense of efficacy, the new districts will make the problem worse. And representation of student issues in Congress will become less important to individual congressmen as students become an ever-decreasing part of their respective constituencies.

With luck, the federal government will recognize these new districts for the partisan creatures that they are and order them to be redrawn along more reasonable lines.

Perry's performance at the GOP debate

Gov. Rick Perry participated in his first political debate in years Wednesday night at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif. Widely polling as the current frontrunner for the GOP nomination, his performance at the debate was neither exceptional nor damning.

While his record on education was not discussed, other aspects of Perry’s record as governor of Texas were heavily questioned. His opponents attacked his position that young girls be vaccinated by the state against human papillomavirus (HPV), and he had no real answer to questions about his position on global climate change and evolution.

But the sharpest attacks, both by the moderators and his opponents, centered on his past contention, which he affirmed last night, that Social Security is a “Ponzi scheme” and constitutes a “massive lie” to young Americans. Although he focused on the lack of sustainability of the program as it is currently funded, he accused the program of being unconstitutional in his much-maligned book, “Fed Up!” Perry’s position that it should be essentially abolished was rightly criticized by his Republican opponents during the debate. While he perhaps deserves a small amount of credit for remaining faithful to his opinion, his position will likely haunt him into the future.

As Texans, we have seen the effects of Perry’s “small government” conservatism for the past decade. Texas ranks dead last in the percent of adults without health insurance, according a recent Gallup poll. Perry has argued against funding our schools adequately, which will damage the state economy in the future. And Perry’s decision to cut funding for the Texas Forest Service has had devastating consequences for residents of Central Texas over the past week because of the wildfires. Wednesday’s debate revealed Perry’s fading novelty in the face of serious scrutiny.