New Boundaries In Harris County

Harris County Commissioners approve a new redistricting plan that Hispanic leaders claim would dilute voting power. The unanimous vote came after a final hearing on the issue. It must now pass muster from the Justice Department.

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Harris County Judge Ed Emmett : "Commissioner Lee?"

Commissioner El Franco Lee: "I move that the compromise plan A-1, revised A-1 be adopted."

Commissioner Steve Radack: "Second."

Judge Emmett: "Any further discussion? All in favor, signify by saying Aye?"

Commissioners: "AYE."

Judge Emmett:  "Any opposed?....okay."

Commissioners approved an amended map of boundaries from community input on the initial map at four public hearings. Attorney Gene Locke helped draft both maps for the county. He told Commissioners that the new lines addressed issue related to voting rights and population equality. He said a plan has to be inclusive, not just for one precinct or another:

"In total with Harris County, the revised plan A-1 maintains an Hispanic majority in Precinct 2, maintains a threatened African American plurality in Precinct 1, which was a real threat in this process, and increases the minority prescience in Precinct 3 and 4, to the extent that there is the ability we believe, to have influence in those areas."

Locke says 90-percent of the people remain in the same Commissioner precinct they were in, and two Commissioners affected by the original plan, get a chance to stay in their precincts.

"One final thing that it does, that's important I think: it adheres to the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. That clause says 'a governmental body can't use race as the predominant factor, in drawing precinct lines or district lines.' And we didn't do that. We drew your plan, based on traditional redistricting principles."

Before the vote was taken, Commissioners heard from people like former Houston city councilmember Felix Fraga. He favored the other plan being considered, that would have drastically redrawn the boundary lines.

"We have to find some way to get the Hispanic population more representation in government, because it's not only the largest in numbers in our part of the country, but it's also the youngest, and is continuing to grow faster than any other group, because of the birth rate. You could close the border and don't let nobody else come in, and our Hispanic population will continue to increase at a faster rate than any other group."

But the new lines will affect Jack Morman's boundaries in Precinct-2. He's been commissioner for seven months now.

"If our propose map is adopted, then we've got a whole big new territory that we're gonna have to work our tails off to make sure that we do everything that we need to be doing, and clearly, and we're not gonna forget about the quote 'old residents' of Precinct 2 as well."

The Justice Department will now evaluate the adopted plan and consider some of the issues raised.

Harris County Precinct Map

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Pat Hernandez

Reporter

Pat Hernandez is a general assignments reporter who joined the KUHF news staff in February of 2008...