Somervell County Commissioners Thursday night adopted new precinct lines that keep the Wolf City neighborhood in one precinct and equalize the number of voters to adjust for population growth over the past 10 years.
No one spoke for or against the proposed precinct line changes at a public hearing held in the Commissioners Court chambers at 6 p.m. County Judge Mike Ford then closed the hearing and commissioners voted unanimously for the changes.
Members of the redistricting advisory committee appointed by the court were in the audience. The members on the panel were Debi Bly, County Superintendent Wade Busch, Billie Flanary, County Emergency Management Coordinator Dwayne Griffin, Brendan Kelly, Robin Middleton, Sandra Ramsay, Windell Rozelle, Fran Thomas and Clarence Whitesell.
David Guinn, a professor of law at Baylor University and a principal attorney with the Waco law firm Guinn & Morrison, was hired by the county to come up with an initial proposal to redraw precinct lines.
The main change he suggested was to combine Wolf City, which had been split into Precincts 2 and 4. Voters there will now all be combined in Precinct 4. The new precinct line runs down State Highway 144 (Austin Street) to FM 56 rather than cutting through the middle of Wolf City.
The only other adjustment to Guinn’s proposal was to run Precinct 1’s boundary down Mission Street to Barnard Street to keep Commissioners Zach Cummings in the precinct he represents.
The precinct line changes approved by the commissioners all fall within the Glen Rose city limits, where most of the county’s population is concentrated. Residents who live in unincorporated parts of the county would see no changes.
The redistricting lines had to comply with both the U.S. Constitution requirement of “one person, one vote” as well as the federal Voting Rights Act that prevents new redistricting plans from having a “retrogressive effect” on minority citizens.
Under the latest Census figures, the county grew 24.69 percent from 6,808 residents to 8,490. The Hispanic population showed the largest increase by racial segment, as it did throughout the state, growing by more than 77.7 percent. The county’s total minority population accounts for 22.32 percent of the overall population.
Precincts 1, 2 and 3 all grew, but Precinct 4 lost population.
“Precinct 2 was the largest and had to be brought into balance,” Ford said.
Minority voters were “fairly well spread out” in the county and weren’t concentrated in one area so “we’ve not had to worry about that part of that issue,” Ford said.
After the redistricting, Precinct 1 will have 2,194 voters; Precinct 2, 2,068; Precinct 3, 2,180; and Precinct 4, 2,048. That is “well within the tolerance” levels of the federal requirements, Ford said.
Commissioners said they liked the plan’s simplicity.
“This is as simple as you can do this,” Ford said. Only about 100 to 125 people were shifted between Precincts 2 and 4, he added.
The U.S. Department of Justice now has 60 days to pre-clear the redistricting plan.