Greetings redistricting warriors! I have some pointers for how to approach your calls to House and Senate committee members. I am not a fan of supplying scripts — according to a recent article in the New Yorker, scripted calls are more likely to be ignored. If you can put key ideas into your own words, your call will have more impact as it will be more organic. To that end, I have generated a list of bullet points to consider before you make your calls. Think about them, figure out how to organize them, and express them in your own language. Don’t feel compelled to hit every one, or even any of them if you feel uncomfortable — the most important thing is to make the call and have your position logged; anything beyond that is a bonus!
If you are the type that likes to engage, remember to be respectful — it’s easy to get worked-up. Stay calm, but be persistent; staffers will be polite but will, in general, be politely blowing you off. When you talk to committee members about redistricting, consider the following points:
- In light of the recent court ruling striking down racially gerrymandered districts, Texas is in danger of needing federal pre-clearance of district maps under the Civil Rights Act. A truly independent redistricting commission would shield Texas from federal oversight.
- There is a large, bipartisan majority of voters (> 80%) in favor of some form of independent non/bipartisan redistricting
- Redistricting is an issue that affects every Texan — at the very least, it deserves a public hearing.
- You will likely be told the member has not looked into the bill — ask why the member has still not looked into this important issue.
- Ask for a direct answer on the member’s views on redistricting: does he/she prefer partisan or non-partisan redistricting? The staffer will not give you an answer — request that they get back to you with the member’s answer.
I think that last bullet point is the most important one. The more we ask, the more likely we are to get an answer. If we can compile a list of members that oppose redistricting, we have the makings of a press release about committee members who support gerrymandering and may be able to generate more press interest. If they refuse to answer, that itself can be the basis for a story — committee members refuse to take a stand on gerrymandering.
If you are a repeat caller like me, you’ll find it more useful to focus your attention on the chair and vice-chair because what we want at this point is a public hearing, and they have control over such procedural matters. If they continue to refuse to consider public hearings, we can go to the press and try to push the story that the committees are blocking public hearings because they prefer Texas’ partisan gerrymandering.