Why We Fight Gerrymandering

Democracy in America is in trouble. All across the political spectrum, Americans feel alienated from their government. They find it distant, ineffective, corrupt, and interested primarily in serving the powerful at the expense of everyone else. Many millions have given up in frustration, feeling powerless to do anything. Others have embraced partisan warfare, turning our politics into a zero-sum battle for total dominance. The spirit of compromise is seldom seen, and idealistic belief in the promise of democratic self-rule seems almost hopelessly naïve. These are the conditions under which authoritarians rise and republics fall — believing the system has failed them, people look to strongmen for salvation.

The promise of a “great leader” is a false one; only we can fix what is broken. The Founders created this government to serve us, the American people, and if the government is failing in that service, it is our responsibility to do something about it. Fatalism, hopelessness, and nihilism get us nowhere — we must recommit ourselves to the ideals and hard work of democratic self-rule and take the system back for ourselves. The task seems almost impossibly huge, but this is America — there is nothing our can-do spirit and grit can’t overcome. A huge task such as this requires that we choose a place to start: to fix our broken politics, we must first take back control of our elections, and to do that we must put an end to partisan gerrymandering.

“A huge task such as this requires that we choose a place to start: to fix our broken politics, we must first take back control of our elections, and to do that we must put an end to partisan gerrymandering.”

First, a brief primer for those unfamiliar with gerrymandering. Every 10 years, the federal government conducts the census, after which seats in Congress are re-apportioned among the states based on relative shifts in population. After each census, the states undertake the process of redistricting — new election district maps are re-drawn to account for the change in the number of seats. In practice, all the districts, state and Congressional, are subject to change, so the district maps can change significantly every 10 years.

Our system of redistricting is inherently corrupt: the party that controls the state legislature draws the boundaries of the districts for every state and federal elected official. As you might imagine, the party in power uses this authority to draw maps that magnify its own power and weaken that of its opposition, often resulting in monstrously bizarre districts; the first such district was called the “Gerrymander,” and that name has come to describe any district drawn with absurd boundaries that serve partisan ends. Texas, as it turns out, has been one of the worst offenders — for decades, Democrats drew shamelessly gerrymandered districts, and Republicans are now returning the favor with a vengeance.

As an example of the power of partisan gerrymandering, consider the effect of Texas’ 2003 off-cycle redistricting, engineered by Tom DeLay. Prior to the redistricting, Democrats held 17 Congressional seats to Republicans’ 15; after the election following the redistricting, Republicans controlled 21 seats to the Democrats’ 11, a 6 seat swing. This huge swing was not the result of changes in population or a wave of political change; it was due almost entirely to how lines were drawn on a map. This is what happens when legislators are allowed to choose their voters.

“This huge swing was not the result of changes in population or a wave of political change; it was due almost entirely to how lines were drawn on a map.”

Partisan gerrymandering has tremendously corrosive effects upon our democratic system. Its tainted process and the absurd districts it produces are tangible evidence to the electorate that the system is rigged, eroding their faith in our elections. Gerrymandered districts can span hundreds of miles, joining together dissimilar communities with no real connection, resulting in “representatives” who represent little beyond raw, partisan power. The near-certainty of incumbent reelection in gerrymandered districts depresses turnout, discourages challengers from running, and contributes to elections being determined by small percentages of voters in increasingly partisan primaries. Artificially large legislative majorities are constructed, producing skewed policy outcomes and a false impression of ideological dominance. Partisan gerrymandering is a perversion of democracy, sacrificing fair elections and faithful representation to partisan advantage and the will to power.

This corrupt process has always been a problem in American politics, but the need to end it is greater now than it has ever been. The advent of Big Data and sophisticated statistical analysis have made it possible for parties to combine electoral, demographic, and consumer preference information in a way that allows them to predict with great accuracy how people will vote down to an almost individual level. The result is partisan gerrymanders of exceptional precision and durability, endowing dominant parties with artificially large majorities that are stable, even in the face of large changes in voter preference. These technical capabilities have only advanced since the 2010 redistricting, promising to make the next round of partisan redistricting even worse.

“Victory is possible: over 70% of Americans oppose partisan gerrymandering regardless of their political affiliation.”

We must act now, or risk America becoming a democracy in name only. This fight will not be short or easy — powerful entrenched interests in both parties do not want to surrender the power and security they gain from this corrupt system. Victory is possible: over 70% of Americans oppose partisan gerrymandering regardless of their political affiliation. Defending this system of institutionalized cheating is impossible, and no elected official wants to do it. If we are loud enough, organized enough, and persistent enough, we can force our representatives to publicly answer the question they do not want to hear: will you end partisan gerrymandering, or will you defend it? Faced with defending the indefensible, their system will crumble and we will take our first step in reclaiming the republic for the people.

Call to Action:

Call Cindy Burkett, chair of House Redistricting Committee, and Joe Straus, Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives about Congressional district Redistricting. Ask why there aren’t hearings being held on bills that could end hyper-partisan, racist gerrymandering of Congressional districts in Texas. Bills awaiting hearing in committee are HJR 32/HB 369, HJR 74, and HJR 118. NONE of the redistricting bills introduced over the past 4 cycles have been called to hearing. That means that in the past 8 years, every effort to de-gerrymander Texas has been ignored.

Thanks to Degerrymander Texas. More info here.

On calling the House Redistricting and Senate State Affairs committees

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.

Senate Committee on State Affairs committee members

House Redistricting Committee members

CBO Score on repeal is out P.S. we’re all screwed

The Congressional Budget Office score is out, and #Trumpcare will throw 14 million people off insurance by 2018, rising to 24 million by 2026. All for a savings on the deficit  $337 billion over 10 years (which is virtually nothing–the US budget for 2015 was $3.8 TRILLION).
Per the CBO:
  • Premiums would rise by 15 to 20 percent in the near term
  • 7 million people would lose their employer coverage
  • Increased deductibles and out-of-pocket costs
  • 25% cut to Medicaid by 2026 (still affects states like Texas that didn’t expand Medicaid)
  • The monthly health insurance premium for a single 64-year-old who makes $26,500 would jump more than 700% (from $1,700 to $14,600)
You know what to do! Start making those calls NOW:
Sen. Cornyn, 512-469-6034
Sen. Cruz, 512-916-5834
Rep. McCaul, 512-473-2357
Rep. Flores, 512-373-3378
Rep. Smith, 512-912-7508
Rep. Williams, 512-473-8910
Rep. Carter, 512-246-1600
Rep. Doggett, 512-916-5921

UPDATED: Upcoming Town Halls – Really!

One of the core tactics in the Indivisible Guide is to attend Town Halls where you can speak directly to your Members of Congress (MoCs). But what do we do when our MoCs refuse to hold a Town Hall–even during next week’s recess when they are supposed to be in their districts?

Answer: You hold one anyway!

Below are the “mock” Town Halls scheduled so far. In each case, the MoC has been invited to attend and may even show up. But that won’t stop constituents from gathering and raising their concerns. We hear cardboard cutouts, puppets, and other MoC stand-ins will in attendance.

TX17 Indivisible Bill Flores Town Hall (Bryan-College Station)

Sunday, February 19, 7:30-8:30 p.m.

Texas A&M Hillel

800 George Bush Dr, College Station, Texas 77840

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1862559110683658/

TX25 Town Hall/Town Howl Roger Williams

Sunday, February 19, 4:30-6 pm

Flores Mexican Restaurant, 2440 E Hwy 290, Dripping Springs, TX 78620

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1418162568218197/

Cruz/Cornyn Ghost Town Hall

Monday, February 20, 6-8 p.m.

Spider House Ballroom

2906 Fruth Street, Austin, TX 78705

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/1447442305307711

TX17 Indivisible Bill Flores Town Hall (Pflugerville)

Wednesday, February 22, 7:30-8:30 p.m.

Blackhawk Amenity Center

3111 Speidel Dr., Plugerville, TX 78660

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/175693349589186/

TX31 Wilco Indivisible John Carter Town Hall

Wednesday, February 22, 5:30-7:30 p.m.

3830 Brushy Creek Rd, Cedar Park, TX 78613

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/727964680696280/

TX10 Indivisible Michael McCaul Town Hall

Thursday, February 23, 6:30-8 p.m. NOTE, this IS the correct date. An email went out with a typo 🙁

Congregation Beth Israel, 3901 Shoal Creek Blvd, Austin, TX 78756


TX21 Indivisible Lamar Smith Town Hall

Saturday, February 25, 5 p.m

The Scoot Inn, 1308 E 4th St, Austin, TX 78702

Facebook event: www.facebook.com/events/1360916700598119/

We’ll update this page as new info comes in. 

CALLS TO ACTION for Friday, Jan. 27!


REMINDER! Many Indivisible folks will be heading to Temple this afternoon to join the Bell County Democrats in a protest outside the Convention Center where Sen. Cornyn is the key speaker.

There aren’t many opportunities for action against our senators directly, so come if you can make it! With Trump’s latest talk about walls and tariffs getting pushback from Texas Republicans, this is a perfect time to encourage them to defy the White House! Check out the the event page (where you can probably find a carpool if you need it!):


IF YOU CAN’T MAKE IT TO TEMPLE, you can still CALL Cornyn’s office and your rep’s office!

Trump has really put Texas Republicans in a tough spot. Economists expect any tariff on Mexico to negatively impact the Texas economy. Many of them are already considering opposing him on this. This is just the kind of issue that can drive a wedge between Trump and Congressional Republicans, so we’ve got to let our reps know that we want them to defy him!

CALL SEN. CORNYN and YOUR REP and ask them to oppose any Trump plan for financing the wall that negatively impacts the Texas economy!


“Hello, my name is ______________ and I am a constituent of [Sen. Cornyn or YOUR REP]. I’m calling to ask him to OPPOSE the 20% tariff on Mexican imports and any other plan that asks Texans to unfairly bear the burden of paying for Trump’s wall. Texas officials and businesses AGREE that this plan would threaten Texas jobs, weaken the Texas economy and drive up the cost of living for Texas families. I’m counting on my representatives to put the interests of their constituents first. Thank you.”


Sen. John Cornyn
Central Texas office: (512) 469-6034
Washington, DC office: (202) 224-2934

Congressional District 10
Congressman Michael McCaul
Austin office: 512-473-2357

Congressional District 17
Congressman Bill Flores
Austin office: (512) 373-3378

Congressional District 21
Congressman Lamar Smith
Austin office: (512) 912-7508

Congressional District 25
Congressman Roger Williams
Austin office: (512) 473-8910

Congressional District 31
Congressman John Carter
Austin office: (512) 246-1600

Congressional District 35
Congressman Lloyd Doggett
Austin office: (512) 916-5921

for more info:




Roger Williams, R-TX District 25, refuses to meet

TX-25 constituents are at Rep. Roger Williams’ office today. Mr. Williams does not care to meet the people he represents. They have been told that his office is “on private property” and the group cannot go in — only one or two people at a time.

Spread the Word about IATX!

Hey! Happy Saturday!

We have a new little resource you can print at home and use to spread the word about Indivisible ATX and our district groups.

Print the IndivisibleATX Zine, (or the Spanish Version) fold it up, and drop it around town. Just fold lengthwise down middle so text is on the outside, then an accordion fold so INDIVISIBLE is on the front.

Print off a few and drop them around town wherever you go–a coffeehouse, the Y, your neighborhood rec center, your office kitchen and mailroom, the park, the grocery store, every public space you can think of!

Make sure you’ve connected with your district group! Visit the Congressional Districts page to get connected.

Committees and Caucuses for Austin Congressmen

Here’s some helpful info for targeting your Congressman by special interest.

A Congressional Committee is a sub-group within Congress that handles a specific duty. Congressional Committees can contain Members of Congress from multiple political parties.

A caucus is a group of people with shared concerns that usually align along party or racial/ethnic concerns but can also be “special interest”-based. (i.e. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus, The Congressional Motorcycle Caucus).

District 10 – Michael McCaul (R)

  • Chairman, Committee on Homeland Security
  • Committee on Foreign Affairs
  • Committee on Science and Technology
  • Co-Chair of the Congressional High Tech Chair
  • Co-Chair of the Childhood Cancer Caucus
  • Co-Chair of the Congressional Cyber Security Caucus
  • Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Sudan and South Sudan
  • Tuberculosis Elimination Caucus

District 17 – Bill Flores (R)

  • House Energy and Commerce Committee
  • Energy and Power Subcommittee
  • Environment and the Economy Subcommittee
  • Oversight and Investigations Committee

District 21 – Lamar Smith (R)

  • Chairman, Committee on Science, Space, and Technology
  • House Committee on Judiciary
  • House Committee on Homeland Security

District 25 – Roger Williams (R)

  • The Committee on Financial Services
  • Vice Chairman of the Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee on Financial Services

District 31 – John Carter (R)

  • Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee
  • Defence Subcommittee
  • Chairman, Homeland Security Subcommittee
  • Co-Chair, House Army Caucus (bi-partisan)

District 35 – Lloyd Doggett (D)

  • House Ways and Means Committee (tax, trade, Social Security, Medicare)
  • Subcommittee on Human Resources (child care, family services, and unemployment compensation)


The resistance is growing quickly, and more importantly — we’re organizing quickly. But more of us are needed. ALL of us are needed — liberals, progressives, conservatives, libertarians Green Party, blacks, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, whites, minorities. Immigrants and natives. The marginalized and the privileged. Women, men, gay, straight, rich, young, old, poor. We all matter and we are all needed — that is the message of those of us who #StandIndivisible. We stand in stark contrast to the message of the other side, which is that soon — as soon as they can make it happen — only the rich, white, and powerful will matter. They’re not even conservatives — they are only using true conservatives to reach their own ends.

It’s critical right now that we reach out to our family, friends, and neighbors and get them involved. Every last one of the 65,844,954 people who did NOT vote Trump must now be reached and asked to resist his cancerous authoritarian regime which is eating up democracy as fast as it can gobble. Make no mistake, your rights are being busily eroded by the Republican Congress as we speak. There is no time to waste.

Here are ten ways you can recruit:

1. BOOST THE SIGNAL. If you feel comfortable doing so, be loud and proud on social media. Repost and retweet items from this website, the Facebook page, and our Twitter accounts.

2. MAKE A SPECIAL FILTER ON YOUR OWN TIMELINE. Ask Facebook friends who like and comment on your political posts if they would like to be part of a special filter where you post action items, both local and national. Tag those people every time you post. Then repost action items and ask them to like your post when they’ve done them.

3. CONTACT PEOPLE PRIVATELY, 1:1. Invite them to meetings and actions. Remind them of these events the day before AND the day of. PM them to ask if they will be there.

4. ANSWER WITH A CALL TO ACTION. Every time one of your friends complains or links an article, respond with “Join #Indivisible” and tell them how.

5. REACH OUT TO PROGRESSIVE CHURCHES AND OTHER ORGANIZATIONS. If you attend or have friends who attend a progressive church, ask if you can announce meetings and share information about the Tuesday conference calls. Talk to leaders and council members. Invite them to join.

6. REACH OUT TO PEOPLE OF COLOR. It’s vital that our movement be diverse —this is one very important way in which we are different from the Tea Party. Reach out to black churches and civic groups, to elders in the community who remember the civil rights movement, to students and friends. Ask them to come to a meeting.

7. HELP PEOPLE BECOME ACTIVE. Many people feel overwhelmed and alone right now. Let them know they’re not. Let them know we are their tribe. If they feel they can’t come to meetings, show them how to find calls to action and scripts (on our website) or send them to them personally. Lots of older folks, for example, don’t feel up to coming to meetings — but they sure can make phone calls and write letters. Offer to drive people to meetings or help them dial into a conference call. Find a way to get the information to them. Give them a little training and then ask them to ask their friends to do it, too!

8. BE SPECIFIC. Ask people to volunteer for specific activities.
• “Would you be willing to commit to calling your representatives’ offices three-four times a week on specific issues? I can provide you contact info, action items, and scripts.”
• “We’re looking for someone to help research bills in District 31. I know you have lots of experience in research — would you be wiling to help out?”
• “I think you would be amazing in a leadership role. With your social media footprint, you could really help boost the signal on the issues we’re trying to highlight. Would you be willing to do that?”

9. EXPLAIN IMPACT & ACTIVITIES. Let people know how their involvement will impact our cause. Show them how they personally can make a difference. Two instances you can cite:
• The Goodlatte Amendment, the recent GOP effort to dismantle the Office of Congressional Ethics. Indivisible activists and others bombarded their representatives’ local offices and successfully demanded that they vote down the amendment.
• District 25 recently put Rep. Roger Williams, himself under investigation for ethics violations, on notice by staging a silent protest at one of his public appearances. And they got his attention.

10. MAKE SURE THEY KNOW WE’RE NOT ASKING FOR THEIR LIVES. Even in an emergency situation like this one, people have lives. They have families, jobs, and their own projects to attend to. Make sure when you speak to people, you make it clear that you are asking them to donate what they can, whether it’s a few minutes a day, a couple of hours a week, or more. Point out to them:
• If they are worried about the Trump regime, doing something is better than doing nothing.
• Becoming part of a determined, hard-working, supportive, accomplished group is a great way to begin to feel stronger and less alone; not to mention the good feeling that comes from making a positive difference, helping others, and learning new things.
• They will get the support they need to accomplish the action items. And we have work for EVERYONE. No one has to do the things they don’t really want to do. We will find something for them and their contribution will be important and appreciated.
• They will be part of a community that cares for and appreciates them.

The old adage “There’s strength in numbers” stands true. Let’s continue to add to our strength so we can ensure that our nation continues to stand #indivisible for truth, justice, and liberty.

Welcome Home, Roger!

Ethics Matter

Rep. Roger Williams from TX House District 25 was back in the Austin area today, looking dignified as he stood in the passenger seat of the Batmobile at the head of the parade honoring the Lake Travis football team for winning the 6A Division Championship. When I heard about the event a few hours prior, I wondered, is this really the time and place for political action? I mean, this is TEXAS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL, and on a SUNDAY. Can it get more sacrosanct than that? I decided that by being there, Rep. Williams had made this a political event whether he wanted it to be or not (and by the look on his face when he saw us with our signs, he definitely did not).

Map of Hill Country GalleriaAnother party who didn’t want us there were the owners of the property. The parade was held at the Hill Country Galleria, which I guess is all private property, even though it’s also the location of Bee Cave City Hall.

We were approached by a security guard who told us that by holding up our signs, we were soliciting and that unless we had express permission from the property owners, it was illegal and that he would call the police and have us arrested. As I took video of the exchange, he said that unless I stopped taking video, he would call the police and have me arrested. I guess we were really pushing his “calling the police and having you arrested” button. Watch his auto-response below.

PS – I want to make clear that this was a silent protest. We didn’t yell anything or try to draw any attention away from the high school students and their accomplishments. The only action we took was holding up signs for the benefit of Rep. Williams.

Roger Williams Batmobile