July 14, 2011 9:42 PM
BY SARAH MUELLER
Residents spoke Thursday evening at the first public hearing on the proposed redistricting maps for all five of the local taxing entities, and responses from the handful of speakers were mixed.
Much of the focus aimed at the city’s proposed map, which has changes that would affect around 5,700 people in Odessa city limits.
“I feel we’re lumped all onto the south side,” said Carol Uranga, a member of the local League of United Latin American Citizens.
According to federal guidelines, to ensure every voting district is similar in size and represents minority voters, deviance in population between the smallest and largest district can’t exceed 10 percent.
The Ector County Redistricting Task Force met for the first time in April, and is made up of representatives from Ector County, the Ector County Independent School District, the Ector County Hospital District board, Odessa College and the city of Odessa. They were assisted by Arturo Michel, a partner with the law firm Thompson & Horton, and redistricting expert Leslie Johnston.
The city of Odessa faced the biggest challenge in redistricting efforts out of all the taxing entities. The difference in population between the city’s District 2 (the largest) and District 5 (the smallest) was more than 20 percent and necessitated moving lines in every area because the districts aren’t adjacent.
Art Leal, president of Una Voz Unida of Odessa, said the new lines for city council District 3 violated the Voting Rights Act because he said it reduced the percentage of minority voting-age residents in that district by 20 percent, and suggested making other changes.
Odessa gained almost 9,000 people in the 2010 census count compared to 2000. Districts 1, 3 and 5 would be majority-minority districts with minorities as more than half of the voting population. Ector County would have three majority-minority districts, with two having a more than 50 percent minority voting-age population.
OC, the school district and the hospital district would have five majority-minority populations with four having more than a 50 percent minority voting-age population.
Republican activist and radio talk-show host Jason Moore also spoke at the public hearing. He said that while the Hispanic organizations were claiming the maps were drawn to prevent minorities from voting, nothing is preventing them from voting the way they want.
“The people testifying tonight rarely go to the polls,” Moore said.
District 3 City Councilwoman Barbara Graff said she plans to check voting records in the area north of East 42nd Street that Leal had referenced in his comment to the task force. She said she will encourage every member of her district to vote.
“I personally don’t have any problem with it,” she said of the proposed changes.
Another public hearing is scheduled at 6 p.m. Monday in the Commissioner’s Courtroom at the Ector County Annex on Eighth Street. Maps of the draft plans for each taxing entity are posted on the city and county websites.
IF YOU GO:
What: Redistricting public hearings.
When: 6 p.m., Monday.
Where: Commissioners Courtroom, Ector County Annex, 1010 E. Eighth St.