GOVT 2306 Unit 4
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Unit 4: Political Participation

 

 

A.  Read the following selections from the Margin Notes by clicking on each link.

Voting Behavior

Campaigns & Elections

 

 

B.  Watch these presentations. When you click on one of the links below, a new screen will pop up. Use the scrollbar on the side of the new screen to navigate. You need Adobe Reader to view PDF files.HELP MESSAGE

[Each may take a few minutes to download.]

Political Participation in Texas Part I

Political Participation in Texas Part II

Elections

 

 

C.  (Optional) Read the following chapters from the textbook.

Chapters 04 and 07

 

D.  The following Optional Links are designed to help you do better in your course but they are not required.

GOVT 2306 Activity #3 Rubric

How to Be a Smart Voter

Rubric for Assessing Candidate Debate Performances

Rubric for Assessing Candidate Speeches

 

 

E.  Activity #3: The Redistricting Game (10 points)To Do Note

Both the US and Texas Constitutions mandate the redrawing of congressional and legislative districts every ten years using population measurements taken by the US Census.

(See the Texas Secretary of State's website for Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Census and Redistricting.)

This periodic readjustment is necessary to give all of the districts approximately the same number of people. If we didn't readjust the districts periodically, some districts would eventually have many more people than others, giving voters in less populated districts more influence. Also, since Texas has gained seats in the US House of Representatives in each national census in recent decades, it has needed to reapportion seats within the state. After the 2010 census, for instance, Texas gained four additional seats in the US House, more than any other state.

The Texas Constitution of 1876 required that the Legislature pass a redistricting plan during the first session after the publication of the decennial national census of the population. However, the Legislature sometimes did not follow through on this obligation. This resulted in the under-representation of the people in those districts where population grew faster than the rest of the state. The failure to redistrict favored the rural areas at the expense of Texas's growing urban centers. The latter's faster population growth meant they deserved additional seats in the state Legislature and the US Congress.

Because of the great imbalance in representation that had developed over the decades, an amendment was adopted in 1948 that gave the Legislature extra incentive to carry out their obligations as specified under the original Constitution. Under this amendment, if in the first legislative session after the publication of the decennial census of the population a redistricting plan was not adopted, the responsibility passed to the Legislative Redistricting Board (LRB). The LRB is composed of the Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House, Attorney General, Comptroller of Public Accounts and Commissioner of the General Land Office. The prospect of the LRB determining district boundaries represented a significant incentive to the Legislature to take seriously its redistricting obligation, since an LRB-authored plan would diminish significantly lawmakers' control over their own reelection fates.

The redistricting process in Texas has produced increasingly intense negotiations and conflicts in recent decades as the Republican Party gained enough support to challenge, and then reverse, the Democratic Party's historic monopoly in the state. These struggles over redistricting have been compounded by profound demographic changes – considerable population growth and high rates of urbanization and immigration – in recent Texas experience. Partisan conflict over redistricting culminated in an intensely politicized process during the 78th Legislature in 2003, when the leadership of the new Republican majority in the legislature revisited the redistricting process and passed a plan supplanting the 2001 plan that had been implemented by the courts.

Before the 1960s the pace of demographic change in Texas was relatively slow. Democrats dominated the political system while African Americans and other minorities were widely excluded. This meant that the social and political structure of legislative districts changed very little or were of little consequence since many working class individuals, especially African Americans and Latinos, were shut out. Changes made by both Congress and the courts in the application of voting rights to the drawing of district lines sought to ensure minority representation. Some of these new rules had unintended consequences.

Several demographic trends have increased the stakes of redistricting. The process of urbanization in the post-World War II period caused profound shifts away from the countryside (which had dominated the political system) to the cities. Urbanization gave way to a long and ongoing process of suburbanization, enabled in part by the interstate highway system, which was begun during the Eisenhower Administration in the 1950s. In the last couple of decades, suburbanization gave us "soccer-moms" and "office-park dads" as voting blocs increasingly targeted by political campaigns. Manipulating how district lines are drawn in relation to these constituencies has become a high-contact sport played in the arena of state politics.

Probably in part due to the political conflict surrounding the process in the last round of redistricting, a July 2008 poll directed by members of the UT-Austin Department of Government and the Texas Politics project found that 45.5% of those surveyed in a statewide poll supported the idea of an independent redistricting commission. However, redistricting was far from a burning issue – 35% of those asked replied that they didn't know. But for those paying attention to the issue, the idea of an independent redistricting commission received support across the partisan spectrum.

 

Resources

Redistricting RealityShould Texas create an independent redistricting commission?

Methods for Manipulating District Lines

Redistricting and Civil Rights

Redistricting Texas Style: A Case Study

Current State Senate Districts: statewide map / district viewer interactive map

Current State House Districts: statewide map / district viewer interactive map

Current US Congressional Districts: statewide map / district viewer interactive map

Puzzling Shapes (This one is a must-see.)

Partisan Redistricting in Texas: How much is too much? (This one might be a little deep.)

Texas House Map Must Be Redrawn, Federal Court Says

Here's a Look at Where Things Stand in Texas Redistricting Court Battle

Supreme Court Puts Redrawing of Texas Political Maps on Hold

Texas Independent Redistricting Commission

Create an Independent Redistricting Commission in Texas

 

For this activity, you are going to play The Redistricting Game, which consists of 5 "missions." Use the instructions I've given below as you proceed through the game. Chances are the concepts used in the game are new to you. Please don't try to rush through the game or you risk becoming hopelessly confused. Instead, make certain you understand the Learn More section of each mission before you go any farther and then take your time in the Basic section of each mission. If you do, you'll understand the concepts and have no trouble with the discussion you send me.

 

Go to the Redistricting Game.

 

Mission One

Chose the link for Mission 1: Fundamentals – Learn More.

Read the brief description and the New Yorker article, Drawing the Line.

Chose the Game link and then the link Mission 1: Fundamentals – Basic.

The game will begin in a new window.

Follow the directions until you see the Begin Mission One link. [Note: There are Help and Undo buttons in the bottom right corner. I strongly urge you to at least skim the Help page before starting the 1st mission.]

 

Mission Two

When you finish Mission 1, go back to the original window and chose the Game link.

Chose the link for Mission 2: Partisan Gerrymander – Learn More.

Read the brief description and the Slate article, The Gerrymander That Ate America.

Chose the Game link and then the link Mission 2: Partisan Gerrymander – Basic.

The game will begin in a new window.

Follow the directions until you see the Begin Mission Two link. [Note: There are Help and Undo buttons in the bottom right corner.]

 

Mission Three

When you finish Mission 2, go back to the original window and chose the Game link.

Chose the link for Mission 3: Bipartisan Gerrymander – Learn More.

Read the brief description and the article Texas Considers New Redistricting System.

        [Note: If the link on the site doesn't work, use www.mywesttexas.com/import/article_a43074ae-a64d-5ad0-bf94-c168f171eadd.html.]

Chose the Game link and then the link Mission 3: Bipartisan Gerrymander – Basic.

The game will begin in a new window.

Follow the directions until you see the Begin Mission Three link. [Note: There are Help and Undo buttons in the bottom right corner.]

 

Mission Four

When you finish Mission 3, go back to the original window and chose the Game link.

Chose the link for Mission 4: Voting Rights Act – Learn More.

Read the brief description.

Chose the Game link and then the link Mission 4: Voting Rights Act – Basic.

The game will begin in a new window.

Follow the directions until you see the Begin Mission Four link. [Note: There are Help and Undo buttons in the bottom right corner.]

 

Mission Five

When you finish Mission 4, go back to the original window and chose the Game link.

Chose the link for Mission 5: Reform – Learn More.

Read the brief description.

Chose the Game link and then the link Mission 5: Reform – Basic.

The game will begin in a new window.

Follow the directions until you see the Begin Mission Five link. [Note: There are Help and Undo buttons in the bottom right corner.]

 

Making specific and detailed connections to the information given in the game and to course content, discuss whether or not you would support redistricting reform and why or why not. Your discussion should be thorough, specific, include relevant concepts from the course material and be free of spelling and grammar errors.

 

Activity Submission Instructions

By the deadline shown in the Course Schedule on the main page of the syllabus:

  • Send your discussion in the body of a new email to dramyglenn@earthlink.net.

  • Put only your name and Activity #3 at the beginning of your email.

  • Be careful to use the correct subject line.

  • Late comments will lose one point per day late, including weekends and holidays.

 


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Copyright 1996 Amy S Glenn
Last updated:   11/06/2017   1730

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