El Paso County wants citizens’ commission to draw Texas’ new redistricting map

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Advocates express concerns about gerrymandering, sue to stop non-citizens from being counted when political districts redrawn

Dallas County election worker Mark Bracken, left, checks in a voter at a polling station, Tuesday, July 14, 2020, in Richardson, Texas.(AP Photo/LM Otero)

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — El Paso County is calling for an independent, citizen-led commission to supervise next year’s electoral redistricting process in Texas.

The El Paso County Commissioners Court on Monday showed unanimous support for such a commission, as some residents expressed concerns about gerrymandering.

“Legislators should not be able to draw their own election maps and pick their voters. When they do, they thwart the democratic process,” El Paso resident Judy Ackerman said at Monday’s meeting. “Gerrymandering causes voters to lose their voice and their motivation to participate.”

Redistricting takes place every 10 years following the decennial census. In Texas, voting rights advocates have long complained and that the process leads to the underrepresentation of minorities.

Those concerns heightened late last month after President Trump signed a memorandum directing the Department of Commerce to exclude undocumented immigrants who might be included in the census count from the apportionment base used to divide up seats in Congress. The directive is being challenged in court.

Common Cause Texas, one of the plaintiffs, is proposing that an independent citizens commission draw the maps, instead of the state’s Legislature, which draws them now. The Legislature could only tweak the maps without making substantial changes under the proposal.

Current Congressional districts map in Texas. (AP graphic)

County Commissioner Precinct 2 David Stout invoked the federal Voting Rights Act and the spirit of “fair and true representation” while presenting Monday’s resolution.

“We oppose any count of persons within a district that would exclude individuals because of their citizenship status or eligibility to vote because all persons means all residing within a district […] all adults, children, citizens, non-citizens, residents, voters and non-registered voters,” Stout said.

The resolution supporting state lawmakers efforts to bring about the commission passed with a unanimous vote. All state legislators representing El Paso are Democrats.

Also Monday, the Commissioners Court endorsed the Democratic-led COVID-19 relief package known as the HEROES Act.

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