Harrison County Commissioners Court working on redistribution | New


A consultant hired to help the county with its redistribution plan recently made a presentation to the Commissioners Tribunal regarding the impact of the 2020 census and the next steps to be taken with regard to population balancing in each constituency.

The county is joining other jurisdictions across the country in the task of redrawing district boundaries following the release of the latest census data. Census data contains details on race, housing tenure status, voting age, and other information that helps states redraw legislative boundaries.

“We take the census every 10 years,” consultant Mike Morrison said. “There are two things we need to do. The first is that we have to make sure that the population between the neighborhood with the most people does not exceed 10 percent and the neighborhood with the fewest numbers, that the total difference does not exceed 10 percent of the other neighborhoods. “

Morrison said the biggest challenge facing the county is how to add more people to Districts 1 and 2, both of which have seen population declines. District 1 is currently represented by Commissioner William Hatfield and District 2 is represented by Commissioner Zephaniah Timmins.

The Harrison County Commissioners‘ Court will host a redistribution workshop session at the end of its regular meeting, which will begin at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, September 28, at the historic Harrison County Courthouse.

“The Constitution of the United States, as well as under the statue of Texas, says that if you go over 10 percent, you have to reduce that number,” Morrison explained. “Under equal protection and with the Voting Rights Act Sections 2 and 5 and Constitutional Amendments 5, 14 and 15, we must do this. One, we need to make sure that you don’t (deny) the ability to protect minority citizens, voters, residents from electing a candidate of caliber of their choosing. And the two things you look at from the Voting Rights Act about it. One is not to downgrade.

“In other words, if you look at the percentage of available votes, the population of voting age, the percentage of the population (within that constituency), if you make the change that decreases that, you have to have an explanation. . Now the fact that we have to balance the population takes precedence over the voting rights law, ”he continued. “This means that if you have to balance the population and that has the effect of reducing the number of people who are in (a) neighborhood, you have to do it. Failure to do so would not violate the human rights law. vote. You are faithful to the Constitution. If it is a violation of the Voting Rights Act to fail to protect minority access, it is also a violation of the Constitution if it is “is your only goal. If the determining factor is the voting strength of minorities, it is a violation of the equal protection of all others. So there has to be a balance.”

Due to the delayed delivery of the 2020 redistribution data to the states by the United States Census Bureau, Morrison explained how Senate Bill 13 gives the legislature the ability to fulfill its redistribution duty by using census data by adjusting the timeline for the 2022 electoral cycle. This will allow more time for legislative action.

According to the analysis of the bill on capitol.texas.gov, the bill does this by setting new dates for the nomination period, primary elections, and primary elections in the 2022 electoral cycle based on when the legislature completed the redistribution. The bill also allows the Secretary of State to set other election dates and deadlines to the extent necessary for the effective administration of the electoral cycle.

“Right now, Senate Bill 13 provides for four different scenarios for where the primary and second round will be held next year,” Morrison said. “The last scenario is that since the governor has not signed a redistribution bill, the House and Senate and the Congressional State Board of Education, we are going to send it back to the Secretary of State for us. say when to vote. .

“I guess the legislature is going to act pretty quickly,” Morrison said.

In fact, as the third special session continued, lawmakers released their first draft of a new congressional map on Monday.

Harrison County Census Data

Revealing data from the 2010 county census, Morrison noted that Harrison County’s population has grown from 65,631 in 2010 to 68,839 currently.

“So that’s (a) 3,208 growths,” he said. “Coming back and looking at each of the neighborhoods. Ward 1 then had 16,034 people. Now he has 15,411; so it’s a loss of about 600 people. Enclosure 2 went from 15,591 to 15,064 – lost around 500 people; Enclosure 3 had 17,082. It grew by about 3,000. It has 20,242. Enclosure 4 had 16,924; and now has 18,122; so he grew to about 1,300 people.

White residents make up 61.07% of the county’s population, black residents 19.54%, Hispanics 14.29%, and others 5.10%.

Looking at the ideal population, dividing Harrison County’s last population of 68,839 into four ridings, the total number of people to balance ridings should be 17,210.

“Now, Ward 1 has 15,411, so it has to take over. To come back to the ideal, it would be 1,800 people, ”explained Morrison. “City 2, to get back to the 15,064 ideal, we have to pick up (2,145.75) people. Obviously, constituencies 3 and 4 need to (reject) people. Enclosure 3 has more than 3,000 people; and district 4 has only 900 inhabitants. But even at 4.912 people is high, that’s over 5% deviation, which means it’s more than half of what would be allowed if we didn’t reduce that population.

“So we’re going to have to move people from 3 and 4 to 1 and 2,” Morrison said. “We don’t have to make it perfect.”

Looking at the minority populations, the consultant noted that high concentrations of African-American and Hispanic populations are already in compound 2.

“What this means is that when we start adding people, we will inevitably attract a higher percentage of non-minorities than minorities,” he said. “So if we were to bring this up to 2,145 people, we’re going to have a significant impact on the minority profile in Ward 2. Do that, if you didn’t have to, to satisfy one person- vote, would be a violation of equal protection and the voting rights law. enough where we help the other three and in that 10 percent, you can continue to do your best for the minority profile, too. “

That said, Morrison suggested county officials do their best to protect the minority profile in Ward 2 as well as meet the requirements of a person’s equal protection for a vote.

According to 2020 census data, Enclosure 1 is made up of 66.73% white, 15.88% black, 12.69% Hispanic, and 4.69% others. Speaker 2 is made up of 29.75 percent white, 45.37 percent black, 21.10 percent Hispanic, and 3.78 percent others. Speaker 3 has 75.59% white, 7.65% black, 10.32% Hispanic, and 6.45% others. Enclosure 4 is made up of 66.07% whites, 14.45% blacks, 14.43% Hispanics and 5.05% others.

In summary, Morison said the redistribution process is to determine whether a redistribution is necessary, based on the 2020 census. If so, any plan must balance the population among the Commissioner’s constituencies, comply with safeguards. equal protection of the Constitution, take into account traditional redistribution criteria, overcome the dilemma created by the dual requirement of meeting voting rights law while avoiding a reverse racial gerrymander, and providing for a meaningful public contribution.

“What we are looking for since there are no (heavy) concentrations of Hispanic and / or African American residents just outside of compound 2, wherever we go we are going to have a percentage reduction . It is inevitable and it is also the non-violation of voting rights as we have to do it to balance the population, ”said Morrison. “Where does it make sense to hunt for people? Is it four or five places you need to snack or is there one big spot? So this is something that will be very useful to me, and probably a contribution from the community will be worth it. “

Morrison suggested that the court prepare a plan by Thanksgiving and then present it to the public.

“For this to make sense, the public needs to have the opportunity to make suggestions that we can take into account if they make sense,” he said. “I appreciate being able to work with you guys. “

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