Somervell County has begun the process of redrawing precinct lines to adjust for population growth over the past 10 years.
The four Somervell County Commissioners and County Judge Mike Ford each selected two people to sit on an advisory panel to help the county with the job.
The members, who were appointed at a special redistricting meeting held last week at the County Courthouse Annex, are Debi Bly, County Superintendent Wade Busch, Billie Flanary, County Emergency Management Coordinator Dwayne Griffin, Brendan Kelly, Robin Middleton, city council candidate Sandra Ramsay, Windell Rozelle, Republic Club member and election judge Fran Thomas and Clarence Whitesell.
At the meeting, the commissioners and committee members heard from David Guinn, a professor of law at Baylor University and a principal attorney with the Waco law firm Guinn & Morrison. The county has hired Guinn to help it redraw precinct lines.
Guinn said the county first must comply with the constitutional requirement of “one person, one vote,” as well as the federal Voting Rights Act. It bars new redistricting plans from having a “retrogressive effect” on minority citizens.
“We know we will have a plan that complies with one person, one vote and treats our minority community fairly,” Guinn said.
Under the latest Census figures, the county grew 24.69 percent from 6,808 residents to 8,490. The Hispanic population, the fastest-growing segment statewide, jumped more than 77.7 percent. The county’s total minority population accounts for 22.32 percent of the overall population.
Precincts 1, represented by Zach Cummings, 2, represented by John Curtis, and 3, represented by Lloyd Wirt, all grew. But Precinct 4, represented by James Barnard, lost population.
To protect its minority profile, the county also must make sure any deviation in population totals are less than 10 percent.
Guinn noted that no one likes to be shifted around, so he proposed a preliminary plan that would shift voters around the least and still comply with the federal guidelines. Both changes would be in the Glen Rose city limits, where most of the population is concentrated.
One proposal is to combine Wolf City — which has been split into Precincts 2 and 4 — into Precinct 4. The precinct line would run down State Highway 144 (Austin Street) to FM 56 rather than cut through the middle of Wolf City.
The other change would adjust Precint 1 and 2 boundaries to follow U.S. Highway 67 and Mary Lynn street.
Residents who live in unincorporated parts of the county would see no changes.
Commissioners said they liked the plan’s simplicity.
“It simplifies the process for election judges,” Ford agreed.
The committee was scheduled to meet again at 6 p.m. today to consider Guinn’s proposal.
Once the county submits a redistricting plan, the U.S. Department of Justice has 60 days to pre-clear it.
A possible wrinkle would be if Texas legislators fractured Somervell County as they redraw congressional district lines, Guinn said. But so far early congressional redistricting proposals keep Somervell County intact and grouped with western counties. The legislature is having to redraw congressional districts because Texas will pick up four new seats in Congress due to population growth.