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Richard Murray

Meet the Harris County redistricting map

On the agenda yesterday at Commissioners Court – the long-awaited redistricting plan for County Commissioner precincts.

The proposal would bring significant changes to several precinct boundaries, seeking to make the populations in the four commissioners’ precincts roughly equal, as required by law, and based on the 2010 Census. The draft will be the subject of several public hearings in the coming weeks.

The map moves roughly 100,000 residents from two fast-growing precincts in the county’s west, north and northeast — represented by Commissioners Steve Radack and Jerry Eversole – to two slower-growing precincts in the south and east – represented by Commissioners Jack Morman and El Franco Lee.

[…]

Richard Murray, a University of Houston political science professor and redistricting consultant, said the proposed changes would be the most sweeping the county had seen since the 1980 Census, after which Precinct 1 was redrawn as a black opportunity district. Lee has held the seat ever since.

Attorneys from Andrews Kurth also helped draft the map.

Radack’s Precinct 3 would remain the largest, with 1.04 million residents, down from 1.15 million; Lee’s Precinct 1 also would be home to 1.04 million people, up from about 940,000.

Eversole’s Precinct 4 would shrink to 1.02 million from 1.12 million. Morman’s Precinct 2 would remain the smallest, rising from about 883,000 to 991,395 under the proposed map.

The largest territory swap under the proposal would happen in northeast Harris County, where Morman would pick up the Atascocita area and land around Lake Houston from Eversole.

Greg puts the numbers into some perspective. You can see the map here – I’ve also uploaded a copy here in case that one gets moved. You can see the chart in the lower left as a Google spreadsheet here. Note that the second group of numbers are the Voting Age Population (VAP) numbers, which superficially make Morman’s Precinct 2 look like a Hispanic opportunity district, but keep in kind that the numbers that matter are the Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) numbers, which will surely make Anglos the plurality, if not the outright majority, in Precinct 2. Given the addition of the Atascocita area, assume Precinct 2 has been made redder as well. I’m sure Greg will have those details soon enough.

In any event, there will be four public hearings, one in each precinct, at which you can register your feedback:

Monday, July 25, 6: 30 p.m. – East Harris County Activity Center (7340 Spencer Highway, Pasadena)
Thursday, July 28, 7 p.m. – Harris County Cavalcade Office (3815 Cavalcade St., Houston)
Friday July 29, 6 p.m. – Mangum-Howell Center (2500 Frick Road, Houston)
Monday, Aug. 1, 4:30 p.m. – Trini Mendenhall Sosa Community Center (1414 Wirt Road, Houston)

I presume some variant on this map will be adopted shortly thereafter. What do you think about this proposal?

No Metro redistricting for now

Back in January there was a Chron story that pointed out a state law that would require the Metro board to add two more members if the non-Houston population of Metro’s service area made up 75% or more of the total. Metro did a study to see what the Census data said, and it concluded that the threshold had not been met.

Preliminary 2010 census data suggested that more than 70 percent of Harris County’s non-Houston residents lived within Metro’s service area.

If the non-Houston population were to hit 75 percent, Metro would have to add two new seats to the Metro board, according to the Texas Transportation Code.

The state code says that, if the 75-percent threshold is reached, Harris County Commissioners Court appoints another board member and the board itself names an 11th member, who becomes the chairman.

According to [UH political science professor Richard] Murray’s report, 67 percent of Harris County residents who live outside Houston are in Metro’s jurisdiction.

Dr. Murray, as we know, has been busy working with HISD, HCC, and Harris County on their redistricting plans, so it’s safe to say he’s familiar with this data. Nonetheless, the Metro board at the request of one of its members voted to have AG Greg Abbott review the results, just in case. Most likely, this will be the end of it until the next Census. Dr. Murray’s report is here, and Metro’s blog has more.