Harris County's Big Shuffle
by: Pat Hernandez, July 12, 2011 10:07:00 pm
The new Harris County boundaries bring significant changes in the population of the four precincts. According to the 2010 Census, there were too many people in precincts represented by Commissioners Steve Radack and Jerry Eversole, and too few in Commissioner Jack Morman and El Franco Lee's precincts.
Dr Richard Murray is a UH political science professor and redistricting consultant. He says the new proposed boundaries would equalize the four precincts.
"We have to move a lot of folks around to get the districts reasonably balanced. So this year, we're gonna have to do some fairly significant changes in the county commissioner precincts, because precincts 1 and 2 are significantly underpopulated."
Harris County gained about 680-thousand people, but Dr. Murray says they didn't gain them evenly across the four precincts.
"The Anglo population has gone down. Minority population, Hispanic particularly, has increased, but it's spread throughout the county, which creates some interesting redistricting issues, and to a lesser degree, the same with the African American population, which is more dispersed now than it was 10 years ago. This creates some issues in trying to draw districts that are opportunity districts for protected minorities."
The map moves roughly 100-thousand residents from the two fast-growing precincts in the county's west, north and northeast — represented by Commissioners Radack and Eversole — to two slower-growing precincts in the south and east--represented by Jack Morman and El Franco Lee.
This is Commissioner Lee:
"The plan is a solid, well thought out balanced plan that protects communities that were contiguous and ethnic balanced, and the impact of two and the growth of two still gives a winnable chance for a minority to win in that seat."
Since the fifth member of Commissioners Court, County Judge Ed Emmett is elected countywide, he did not participate in the redrawing of the new precinct boudaries.
"When it comes to redistricting the county commissioner's precincts, that's their business and they're the ones that provide the services to those residents. It's a process that is historic, and they go through it every 10 years, and woe be under a county judge that gets involved in it."
Before the new lines are passed by the court and approved by the Deptartment of Justice, a series of public hearings will be held beginning next Monday.
Here is the list and times of those hearings:
- Monday, July 25, 6: 30 p.m. • at East Harris County Activity Center (7340 Spencer Highway, Pasadena)
- Thursday, July 28, 7 p.m. • at Harris County Cavalcade Office (3815 Cavalcade St., Houston)
- Friday July 29, 6 p.m. • at Mangum-Howell Center (2500 Frick Road, Houston)
- Monday, Aug. 1, 4:30 p.m. • at Trini Mendenhall Sosa Community Center (1414 Wirt Road, Houston)
Source: Harris County Attorney's office