The Houston Community College Board of Trustees approved on Wednesday a redrawn voter map that made small changes to all nine single-member districts but failed to reunify a previously split Third Ward.
The trustees approved the drawing, 8-1, with only District 4 Trustee Reagan Flowers voting against. She sought to regain the north part of the historic Third Ward ten years after her district ceded it to District 3, a predominately Hispanic area in east and southeast Houston that had lost population in the 2010 U.S. Census.
Alternate maps that Flowers favored never gained traction. Latino communities came out in force to support the plan that was voted on and approved. and election lawyers said it also contained the most equitable changes across the districts and had the least potential of diluting voter strength.
“(The map) actually rebalances you as a system,” said Lisa McBride, a partner at Thompson & Horton LLP. “It’s a little bit of impact to every single member district but it’s not so much that it actually would change any election outcome.”
The redistricting effort occurred as HCC’s District 3 once again counted population losses in the 2020 U.S. Census. Districts have to be redrawn when the population of the most populous district — now District 6, in west Houston — exceeds the population of the least populous district by more than 10 percent at the time of major Census updates.
The population estimates led the HCC board to spend the last 14 months considering various redrawn maps – all with the intent of finding places for District 6 to shed population and District 3 to expand. The trustees needed to approve a new map by the summer, in time to plan for the November election.
In approving “map 1A,” District 3 Trustee Adriana Tamez said, the board succeeded in its goals of preserving existing boundaries when possible and preserving constituent relations.
“There were challenges, including population growth in the west side of the System,” she said. “Map 1A adheres to our agreed upon criteria, with as little disruption as possible, not only for district 3, but for all districts across the system.”
See here for some background. There was definitely some opposition from Trustee Flowers and residents of the Third Ward, but the challenge of keeping that part of town all in the same district when the adjoining District 3 needed to add population required bigger overall changes, and in the end that was not the consensus choice.
On a completely tangential note, HISD still has its redistricting to do. The most recent update I have on that is from January, and with the forthcoming takeover I have no idea what will happen. If they had had an easy update to make, they’d have done it by now, but these things are rarely easy. As we know, there are still HISD Trustee elections this November, and the districts right now are not in compliance with the law. Something will have to happen sooner or later.