Tyler council holds public hearing on redistricting

Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 3:31pm

On Wednesday, May 25, the Tyler City Council received a presentation, held a public hearing and received public input on options for redistricting Tyler’s single member Council districts.

“At their April 6 meeting, the Council adopted redistricting criteria for the consultants to use as the framework for developing options,” said City Attorney Gary Landers. “Today the Council heard two options for proposed new boundaries to achieve proportionate representation in our Council districts.”

Option “A” is the consultant’s attempt to balance the total number of voters in each district as closely as possible. Option “B” incorporated recommendations from Option “A”, but involves fewer geographical shifts that result in changes in voting precinct boundaries and takes into account the need to ensure that in the majority-minority districts the new districting plan does not result in a reduction of the minority group’s ability to elect a candidate of their choice.

“Less change in voter precinct boundaries should result in less voter confusion during the next election,” added Landers.

The Council expressed support for Option “B” and asked the public for comments in preparation for a second public hearing on June 8.

The City of Tyler last redistricted in 2000; since that time, there has been a sizable increase in the total population of the city, requiring the City to again redistrict. The United States Constitution requires that each district within a city have approximately equal population. Preliminary results from the 2010 Census indicate that the population of Tyler is 96,900, an increase of 15.84 percent from the 2000 Census. The distribution of that growth has not been evenly dispersed resulting in an uneven number of residents in some of the City’s single member districts. Given Tyler’s current population, each district should have 16,150 residents or be within 10 percent of that figure. To achieve this equity, district boundary lines must be adjusted to rebalance the populations in the districts.

In addition to the one voter – one vote rule, cities in Texas must be aware of the federal Voting Rights Act requirements that govern the redistricting process. To ensure redistricting obligations are met, the City of Tyler along with Smith County and Tyler Independent School District, has contracted with the law firm of Bickerstaff and Health to assist with the redistricting process to increase coordination and cooperation. It is anticipated that this coordination will assist voters in the future.

Once adopting a final plan, the City must gain approval from the U.S. Department of Justice for the new district boundaries before they are implemented in an election.

A second public hearing is set for June 8, 2011 at which time the Council may vote to approve a redistricting plan. The plan will then be submitted to the Department of Justice after adoption and be implemented prior to the 2012 City Council elections.

From City of Tyler

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