The secret expert behind the magical mathematics of the new electoral maps proposed by Texas
You have to tell our leaders this: They don’t mind generously opening the state coffers to a Yankee if it can help secure their future.
As the Texas Tribune revealed last week, our legislative leaders rather stealthily hired a top gun from Wisconsin to help them draw the new maps of the United States House of Representatives and both houses of the Legislative Assembly. from Texas.
According to the Tribune, Adam Foltz is listed in state records as employed as a “legal professional” by the Texas Legislative Council, a non-partisan state agency used by members of both parties to draft and analyze bills.
But Kimberly Shields, deputy executive director of the board, told the Tribune in an email that Foltz was reporting to Representative Todd Hunter, chairman of the Republican-controlled House Redistricting Committee.
In his email, Shields told the Tribune: “Although Mr. Foltz is on the Legislative Council payroll, he is considered an employee of the House Redistribution Committee, and his hiring and duties are entirely from President Hunter. ”
Foltz comes with quite a pedigree. Ten years ago, he was a key player in the development of legislative maps for Wisconsin, maps which are widely considered to be among the most aggressively gerrymandered in the nation.
Foltz worked in a law firm but as an employee Jeff Fitzgerald, then Republican Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly (equivalent to the Texas House). Foltz worked side-by-side with Tad Ottman, who reported to Fitzgerald’s brother Scott, who was the majority leader of the state Senate.
By all accounts, Foltz did a great job for the Wisconsin Republicans. John D. Johnson, an election expert at Marquette University Law School, measured the impact of the maps of Wisconsin drawn 10 years ago. He noted that in 2012, Barack Obama won 53% of the state’s vote. He beat Mitt Romney in 55 of 99 assembly districts as measured by the previous card. But under the map Foltz helped draw, he beat Romney in just 43 assembly districts.
Johnson calculated that according to the post-Foltz card, Democrats would have to win the state by around 8.2 percentage points in order to take control of the assembly, up from 3.8 points under the card used in the 2000s. .
In 2018, Wisconsin Democrats narrowly swept all state offices on the ballot, including that for governor, but Republicans won 63 of 99 assembly seats.
Foltz also appears to have played a role in what we might call the strictly disciplined procedures used for redistribution. The cards were drawn in law firms, not on Capitol Hill. Only Republicans were allowed in to inspect them while they were drawn, and they were routinely required to sign nondisclosure agreements on what they saw.
Foltz is also said to have prepared “talking points” for Republican lawmakers, stressing that anything they say could become a problem in lawsuits over the plan. Talking Points also stated that “Public comments on this card may be different from what you hear in this room. Ignore public comments.
In other words, the truth was not told in public to citizens but behind the doors of law firms and protected by agreements of secrecy.
Comments from those involved in creating the new plan are particularly important in the wake of the United States Supreme Court’s rulings declaring that even though the deliberate dilution of minority voter power is not allowed, it is permissible to gerrymander aggressively to help your political party even if this results in an “unintentional” decrease in the power of minorities.
The reputation Foltz gained from his work in Wisconsin allowed him to increase his rates. The taxpayers of that state paid it at the rate of $ 50,000 per year. We Texas taxpayers are forced to pay $ 120,000 a year. This despite the fact that, according to the Texas Tribune, President Hunter admitted on Monday that he hired Foltz but said, “I don’t know what happened in Wisconsin and I haven’t even investigated.”
Are Texas Republicans Following Foltz’s Wisconsin Playbook? It certainly looks like it.
Representative Ina Minjarez, a Democrat and the only member of the Bexar County delegation to the redistribution committee, said the delegation was invited to submit its recommendations for lines in that region, which she did.
She said she hasn’t met Foltz, but her impression is that he’s drawing the maps, which were not shown to her and other Democrats until they were released last week.
“A Republican member called me yesterday and he mentioned that he had gone to speak to the president and had met Adam Foltz instead,” she said on Saturday.
Texas’ population has grown so much over the past decade that it was the only state in the country to be given two new seats in Congress. Census figures show people of color accounted for 95 percent of the growth. Yet the new map proposed for the Texas House of Representatives manages to increase the number of majority white districts and decrease the number of majority black and Hispanic districts.
Although the census shows that the white and Hispanic populations are almost equal to Texas (41.2 percent white, 39.7 percent Hispanic), the current map is sharply tilted in white. Of the House’s 150 arrondissements, 83 are predominantly white. Only 33 are predominantly Hispanic and seven are predominantly black. (Twenty-seven districts have no racial majority group.)
The proposed new map slopes the playing field even further. It increases the number of majority white districts by six while reducing the majority black and Hispanic districts by three each.
How did Foltz and his Republican bosses handle this? The best explanation I’ve seen is here in the New York Times.
President Hunter said the published map is only a draft and will likely change, but Minjarez is skeptical of improving it.
“I think it will be difficult,” she said. “The changes will have to be accepted by the parties concerned. If a Democratic member proposes an amendment that will affect a Republican member, it will not pass. “
Plus, Hunter is speeding up the bill. He held a hearing on the matter on Monday, just four days after the public and members of his Democratic committee were allowed to see the proposed cards. And according to the Texas Tribune, he announced that he plans to remove it from the committee for consideration by the entire House at the end of the hearing.
This despite the fact that 116 people had registered to speak out against and only six for. The hearing started in the morning and continued past my deadline in the evening.