November 29, 2003
Splitting Sutton County

Not sure why this story is just getting printed today, but it's about another no-name casualty of redistricting out in West Texas.

SONORA -- To folks in this hamlet on the western edge of the Texas Hill Country, redistricting seemed an issue for cities such as Houston, Dallas or San Antonio.

That was until state lawmakers divided Sutton County between two U.S. congressmen, splitting a place where natural gas fuels the economy and where hunters fill the main drag each autumn.

"It's an absolute absurdity," said John Tedford, the Republican party chairman for Sutton County. "With just 3,000 people here, it's just absurd."

The county used to be represented by Rep. Henry Bonilla, but if the new lines are approved it will also be represented by Tom Craddick's pet Congressman from Midland. So why did Sutton County get the shaft?

The Sutton County split was a last-minute move during a series of marathon map-drawing sessions as Republicans sought a compromise over the shape of a West Texas district.

State Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, a lead map-drawer, said dividing Sonora was an unavoidable consequence of the requirement that the congressional district contain exactly 651,619 residents, with no deviation. Districts are federally required to be evenly divided according to census figures.

"Realistically, it could have been one of a hundred different towns where the boundary eventually stopped," Staples said. "In this instance, it just happened to be in Sutton County."

Staples said the split was probably drawn "in the wee hours of the morning, as we analyzed the map." He said Sutton County was not a political target.

I'm sure the residents are comforted by that news, Todd. I also have to ask: Exactly 651,619 residents per district? Are our Census numbers that good? What if someone's wife went back home to live with Mother in another county? Would the boundaries still be legal, or would we have to move a neighbor's house into another district? Seriously, is 1200 people enough to matter?

What are the practical effects to the residents in Sonora?

Sutton County must pay to bring all four precincts in line with the new congressional districts before the March primary, a job that will cost the county an estimated $1,500, said Sutton County Clerk Veronica "Betty" Hernandez.

"If it was up to me, I wish it would remain the same. But we have to change according to the new lines now," Hernandez said.

Sutton and other counties with new boundaries must scramble to meet an array of election filing and ballot deadlines. Counties need time to print ballots, mail new voter registration cards and alert voters of new polling places.

"Once you add in everything, we're looking at at least $5,000," said Sutton County Judge Carla Garner, a Democrat. "That's a considerable amount we didn't budget for."

They'll likely use money earmarked from a local improvement project, Garner said.

I'll bet the Jurisprudence committee didn't even give them a kiss after screwing them out of that money. And hey, if the courts rule the way I think they will, it won't even be money well spent. Welcome to Rick Perry's world.

Speaking of the courts, in addition to a ruling by the US District Court in Marshall about the DeLay/Barton subpoena, the Colorado Supreme Court will rule on the legality of that state's unprecedented re-redistricting effort on Monday. Next week ought to be very interesting.

UPDATE: Beldar thinks that DeLay will be compelled to testify, and that it will be more of an opportunity than a threat for the GOP. This is really a response to an earlier post, but I'm putting it here so it won't get overlooked.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 29, 2003 to Killer D's | TrackBack

Re: Exactly 651,619 residents per district?

That's what the courts have ruled, I think based on the Voting Rights Act. More deviation is allowed on state rep districts, but the rules/laws/court orders regarding federal house districts are very demanding.

The Census numbers are meant to be a one-day snapshot of where everyone lives. Of course they're not perfectly accurate, but they're much better than guessing.

Posted by: Rob Booth (Slightly Rough) on November 30, 2003 11:19 AM

Huh. Thanks for the clarification. I have to ask: how can you be sure you've drawn an accurate map under those conditions? Is the demographic information that detailed? That's...vaguely unsettling.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on November 30, 2003 2:00 PM

Tom Craddick's and Connaway's new congressional district is the slickest engineered thing I have ever seen! It will include most of the water: Lake Ivie, Lake Buchanan, Lake Proctor, Lake Brownwood, Hord's Creek Lake, The South LLano river, the north Llano river, the SAN SABA RIVER, the Colorado river,and lord knows how many springs and wells. It will include most of the finest cattle in the world: the SAN SABA AUCTION BARN, the Mason auction barn, and Tommy Lee Jones's SAN SABA RANCH. It will will include most of the finest pecan orchards in the world, the WORLD FAMOUS SAN SABA PECAN BOTTOMS. It will include the finest people to have ever walked the face of the earth: THE SAN SABA PEOPLE, the Llano people, and the mason people. It will include most of the oil: The Permian basin. It will include most of the very finest land in the world, the Edwards Plateau. Finally, the most extraordinaryly unimaginable fact: IT WILL INCLUDE BOTH LUCKENBACK AND LOWAKE! (DID I EVER MENTION ANYTHING ABOUT SAN SABA?)

Posted by: Concermed citizen on January 12, 2005 4:18 PM