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The alternative Commissioners Court map

Opponents of the proposed County Commissioners map have presented their version in the last public hearing on county redistricting.

Democrat Sylvia Garcia was Precinct 2 commissioner from 2002 until this year, having lost to Republican Jack Morman in last November’s elections. Garcia, State Sen. Mario Gallegos (D-Houston) and others helped draft the alternative map and organize opposition to the county consultants’ proposal.

That proposal, by attorney Gene Locke, of Andrews & Kurth, and Dick Murray, a University of Houston political scientist, adds a swath of reliably conservative northeast Harris County to Precinct 2. It also reduces the population of Hispanics in the precinct by about 3 percent from current levels.

Locke and Murray said the need to protect Precinct 1, a black opportunity district that shares a lengthy border with Precinct 2, forced Precinct 2 to add population to the north. Locke has said the Department of Justice will consider numerous factors in deciding whether the map complies with the Voting Rights Act, not just the 2010 Census data used to estimate current demographics in the precinct.

Greg has already shown that that’s not the case. The county’s map is about incumbent protection. Which I understand, but let’s not kid ourselves.

You can see the county’s proposed map here, and the Gallegos/Jara alternative map here. Incumbent protection is the big stumbling block.

Some political observers have questioned the political viability of this alternative, given that it draws Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Eversole, a Heights resident, out of his district.

Eversole “lives in the inner city and represents a suburban district,” Jara said. “It’s pretty hard to protect him without bringing in a peninsula of some sort and to just basically grab his house.”

The alternative map also turfs Morman out of his precinct; he would wind up in Precinct 4. Precincts 2 and 4 are on the same election schedule, however, so in theory Morman could run for reelection in 2014 regardless.

The Gallegos/Jara map is quite a bit different from the current map, and from the county’s proposed map, which makes a fairly minimal set of changes. If it looks vaguely familiar, I’ll refer you back to Greg’s initial takes on a new map, which do a lot of similar things. You’ll note that if Jerry Eversole were to do everyone a favor and ride off into the sunset – or the federal pokey – most of these problems solve themselves. Morman can become Commissioner For Life in precinct 4, Latinos can regain the representation they deserve, and we all live happily ever after. This is not an intractable problem, and the county can save itself a lot of time and money in litigation costs if it grabs the obvious answer that’s right in front of its nose. Eversole can even stay on the Court till his term ends in 2014, assuming the next jury cooperates. What’s not to like?

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One Comment

  1. namsmog says:

    OK, let’s cut the crap, and get back to the three C’s of redistricting–make the districts compact, contain communities of interest, and competitive (yeah, the incumbents love that one).

    First, maintaining District 1 as “protected” perpetuates it as a political ghetto. Second, the core of a reformed District 1 should be the area inside the 610 Loop, now balkanized among all 4 districts. Population should be added to this core by extending this district northward and southward between highways 45 and 59, within Beltway 8, until the district exceeds 1 million population.

    Second, District 2 should be maintained south of Hwy 90, and extended southward around Beltway 8 towards Hwy 288 until its population exceeds 1 million.

    The remaining two districts, would be adjusted, but keep compact. The entire area around Lake Houston should be within a single district, i.e., District 4.

    Make these reforms, and Harris County redistricting will be better off.

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