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City and county push forward with redistricting, public input sought

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The El Paso County Redistricting Advisory Commission is close to making a recommendation to the County Commissioners Court on how to redraw the boundaries for the four commissioner precincts.

Voting boundaries for elected officials at the local, state and federal level are redrawn every 10 years following the release of decennial U.S. census data.

El Paso County’s population in 2020 was 865,657, according to data released in August. The figure represents an 8% increase over the prior census in 2010 — the county’s slowest period of growth since the Great Depression.

Public Notice: Click to see PDF of Proposed El Paso County Redistricting Maps

The numbers are used for everything from political representation to federal and state spending. El Paso County’s growth rate was half of the state’s 15.9% population growth between 2010 and 2020, which means El Paso will have less political clout at the state and federal level after political boundaries are redrawn later this year by the Texas Legislature.

At the local level, the city and county will redraw boundaries for seats on Commissioners Court and City Council based on the population changes.

The county’s Redistricting Advisory Commission has been meeting since June and had an open submission for maps from the community. Three map proposals have been submitted for the commission’s consideration. One of the maps was submitted by the League of Women Voters, which created its own local redistricting committee, and includes changes to each of the four county commissioners’ precincts.

County officials said there will be a final public meeting at 9 a.m. Saturday at County Courthouse Room 303.

“The maps submitted by the League of Women Voters meet the highest standards for minimum percentage of deviation in population, maintaining communities of interest and compactness of the proposed county precincts,” said Carmen Rodriguez, chair of the league’s redistricting committee.

Commissioner Precinct 1, held by Carlos Leon, spans most of the East Side. The League of Women Voters proposed map would increase the number of precincts he serves and would add Fort Bliss.

Commissioner Precinct 2, held by David Stout, which mainly covers Central El Paso and Northeast El Paso, would remain centralized in the Downtown area, gain some West Side precincts and lose Fort Bliss, according to the map.

Commissioner Precinct 3, held by Iliana Holguin, which covers portions of the Lower Valley, would lose some precincts, based on the recommendations.

Commissioner Precinct 4, held by Carl Robinson, which covers portions of Northeast El Paso, would gain Northeast precincts, but lose some West Side precincts, according to the map.

Two redistricting commissioners also submitted maps for consideration.

The map submitted by commission member Jesus Valdez would add Fort Bliss to Precinct 1 and would have slight changes at the eastern border with Precinct 3. Valdez recommended compacting Precinct 2 with additional portions of West El Paso and a decrease in portions of Northeast El Paso. Precinct 3 would remain mostly unchanged, but Valdez recommended slight changes at the western border with Precinct 1. Precinct 4 would gain larger portions of Northeast El Paso, but would lose portions of the West Side.

A map submitted by commission member Homer Reza would slightly decrease the size of Precincts 1, 2 and 3 and increase the size of Precinct 4.

Stout, who led the effort to create the independent citizen advisory commission, said his precinct could see significant changes based on the recommended maps.

“We understood that most of the growth was in the eastern side of the county, and there was a population decrease in the area that I represent. So I think I knew that my precinct was going to change, we just didn’t know how, or we still don’t know,” Stout said.

Stout said it is possible more map recommendations will be submitted. The deadline for the Commissioners Court to adopt its new map is Nov. 8.

City of El Paso

The city’s Districting Commission is in its beginning phase of the redistricting process. The commission had its second meeting Thursday.

Districting Commission Chair Martin Bartlett said commissioners want to ensure the meetings are as accessible as possible to the public, recognizing the task comes around once every 10 years.

“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure that we are creating opportunities for people to be as engaged as possible,” Bartlett said.

The commission’s future meetings will be held weekly at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, with public comment scheduled at 5 p.m., at 300 N. Campbell in City Council Chambers.

Bartlett encourages all El Pasoans to be aware that redistricting is happening and to participate.

“It is going to be something that impacts how all of us are represented at City Hall for the next 10 years,” Bartlett said.

The city will need to adopt new district boundaries by the end of July 2022 to meet the state and federal filing deadlines.

How to participate

El Paso County Redistricting Advisory Commission is at 9 a.m. on Saturday at 500 E. San Antonio, in County Courthouse Room 303.

Watch online at the County’s YouTube channel.

Public comments can be made by telephone by leaving a message with your phone number prior to the meeting by dialing 888-835-7276 or 888-8 EL PASO. You will be contacted when it is time to address the Redistricting Advisory Commission.

The City Redistricting Commission will be meeting weekly at 4 p.m. Wednesday at 300 N. Campbell in City Council Chambers. Public comment will be at 5 p.m.

Watch online via the city’s website, or the city’s YouTube channel.

Public comments can be made by calling 915-213-4096. At the prompt enter the Conference ID: 522 815 479#.

To sign up to speak, contact Planning and Inspections at (915) 212-0088.

Masks, or face coverings are required for in-person meetings at City Hall and El Paso County Courthouse.

Disclosure: Martin Bartlett is a financial supporter of El Paso Matters.

Cover illustration courtesy of Democracy Chronicles

Elida S. Perez

Elida S. Perez is a longtime community and investigative reporter. Her experience includes work as city government watchdog reporter for the El Paso Times, investigative reporter for El Paso Newspaper Tree and communities reporter with the Salem, Oregon, Statesman Journal.

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