Harris County redistribution maps attract criticism as representation changes to Tomball
Electoral boundaries have changed as a result of this fall’s redistribution, which means the town of Tomball is now split between two county commissioner territories. The Harris County Precinct 4 service center is located in Tomball, which is now largely located in Precinct 3. (Chandler France / Community Impact Newspaper)
New electoral maps are drawn for the next decade in Tomball and Magnolia, which divides the town of Tomball between two county commissioner territories.
In a 3-2 vote, Harris County commissioners selected a new boundary map for the county’s four ridings on October 28. The plan drew criticism from two Republican court commissioners: Tom Ramsey of District 3 and Jack Cagle of District 4. The two voted against the proposal and joined a lawsuit against the county over the results of the redistribution.
“What this has done for Tomball is it splits Tomball in half,” said Bruce Hillegeist, president of the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce.
According to Harris County data, 95.3% of the city of Tomball, or 11,758 residents, reside in Wall 3 under the new boundaries, and 583 people reside in Wall 4.
At a meeting of the court of commissioners on November 9, Cagle noted that the vote on the new cards has always been unanimous and that the two commissioners spoke of the drastic “turnaround” of their precinct. Much of enclosure 3 is now considered enclosure 4 and vice versa.
“I don’t think there was ever a redistribution that displaced 2.3 million people. That’s what we’re talking about here, ”Ramsey said.
The Montgomery County Commissioner’s territories have seen little change without any county-level changes affecting the Magnolia area. Constituency 2 Commissioner Charlie Riley will continue to represent Magnolia with his post up for election in 2022.
The only boundary change moves residents of Southeast Conroe from Enclosure 4 to Enclosure 1, according to approved maps.
Harris County Police Station
In Harris County, the Tomball area was largely contained within Enclosure 4 for the past decade, with a small portion of the unincorporated Tomball area within Enclosure 3. Now the city Tomball is divided into two zones, with much of the Tomball area served by Enclosure 3. Enclosure 4 begins primarily west of Tomball.
The United States Constitution states that the precincts of Commissioners’ Courts must not deviate by 10% more or less than the ideal population size, which for Harris County was 1.18 million.
“The map we adopted here today contrasts sharply with the radical gerrymandering adopted in Austin, which was designed… at the expense of fair representation for all Texans,” District 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis said. , who proposed the approved card, in a statement.
County officials said the deadline for the transition of responsibilities was not until January 1, 2023, but commissioners agreed on November 9 to complete the transition by March 31.
Cagle alleged that the county had violated the principle of one person, one voice used in the redistribution.
“Right now the rules are being worked out as they go,” Cagle said. “Instead of adjusting the population slightly, we transmigrated constituencies.”
Litigation in progress
Cagle and Ramsey joined a lawsuit against the county on November 16, which alleges the new commissioners card violates voters’ right to vote by forcing voters in the new Ward 4 to vote for a new commissioner in 2022 when Cagle’s term in office is finished. Residents of New Ward 3 will not be eligible to vote in a commissioner election for six years, Cagle said, if the trial fails.
“You have now withdrawn the right to vote for [1.3] millions of people. … There is no greater suppression of voters than to withdraw [residents’] vote, ”Cagle said.
The lawsuit asks the Harris County District Court to draw a provisional map for the 2022 commissioner election while seeking an injunction to prevent Ellis’s map from coming into effect. Emily Berman, a professor at the University of Houston Law Center, said the lawsuit built on a precedent in which state courts could hear cases alleging excessive partisan gerrymandering.
According to Mark Jones, professor of political science at Rice University, gerrymandering is the practice of drawing political constituencies for the benefit of a political party or racial or ethnic group. •• “Partisan gerrymandering is 100% constitutional. … You can also draw constituencies that… are designed to ensure that under-represented minorities can elect the candidates they want, ”Jones said.
The type of gerrymandering that is illegal “would effectively damage the capacity of under-represented minorities [and] overturn their choice, “Jones said. •• A hearing was held on whether to grant a temporary restraining order preventing Harris County from implementing Ellis’ card on November 29, but the attempt failed, Cagle said. A hearing on the temporary injunction is scheduled for Dec. 17, after press time, and Cagle said the goal was to bring the case to the Texas Supreme Court by early January.
“We oppose the action taken by the Commissioners Tribunal and hope that a tribunal will overturn the decision taken and that Commissioner Cagle and Commissioner Ramsey will retain the original constituencies 3 and 4,” Hillegeist said.
Representation of Tomball
Tomball officials have said the transition will likely come at costs for the city.
The city and Ward 4 have teamed up for the maintenance and equipment of Broussard Park, which opened in September 2020 and adjacent to Mathews Park in Harris County. The agreement stipulated that Enclosure 4 would help maintain the park, and Tomball would provide utilities to Mathews Park.
“This actually has financial implications for us, because if they end this partnership then we will have to add staff to maintain this park,” said city manager David Esquivel.
Esquivel said Ward 3’s ability to respond to local emergencies, such as weather conditions and county projects, such as the Spring Creek Greenway and road improvements, are also concerns for the city.
“If it stays as it is drawn, we will be mainly in enclosure 3,” he said. “It’s a concern for us. … It’s going to be completely different and all the priorities and road maintenance that are in the town of Tomball.
Hillegeist also questioned the “huge” cost to the county.
“Just think of the number of signs to be redone, the familiarity of the marshals and their workers for the different parks,” he said. “We see this as a political gesture. … We see this as a waste of taxpayer money.
However, Esquivel said that from December 2 the city continued to work with City 4 as the trial calling for provisional maps was underway.
“Cité 4 still manages everything it usually does. … They’re kind of still in a business-as-usual pattern, ”he said. “We haven’t had any of those transfer conversations at all yet [with Precinct 3]. ”