Liberty County commissioners will hold a second redistricting workshop at 11 a.m. on Friday, Oct. 22, in the second floor courtroom in the county courthouse to review prospective boundaries for the county’s four road and bridge precincts. The meeting is open to the public and interested residents are encouraged to attend.
At the first redistricting workshop on Oct. 14, commissioners and County Judge Jay Knight had an opportunity to see the preliminary lines that were established with the help of staff of the Austin-based law firm, Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta LLP. However, they are still undecided on some of the finer details.
Knight, who has promised that he will not cast a tie-breaking vote if the commissioners are split on the boundary lines, said the goal is to ensure that each precinct has roughly 21,749 residents. The rules for redistricting strongly discourage against dividing precincts in a way that would dilute or diminish the voting power of a minority population, so commissioners are having to take that into consideration with each line they adjust, particularly around Plum Grove.
“We are looking at each precinct carefully so that hopefully none of the commissioners loses his home base,” Knight said.
The big shift in boundary lines is the result of the massive jump in the population in the Colony Ridge communities south of Plum Grove. This is requiring that each of the four precincts now be adjusted so that each precinct has a nearly-equal number of citizens.
For the residents in the Colony Ridge and Plum Grove areas, this means that the boundary lines will be shrinking significantly with Pct. 3 Commissioner David Whitmire expected to lose the City of Cleveland to Pct. 2 Commissioner Greg Arthur. Currently Arthur’s precinct, the largest in the county in both acreage and road miles, includes Hardin, Moss Hill, Tarkington, Romayor, Rye and Daisetta. The new lines suggest that Arthur will be giving up some areas to the south and east, particularly Daisetta, in order to add Cleveland.
Dayton and Kenefick are likely to remain together under Pct. 4 Commissioner Leon Wilson who only needed to add a few hundred more residents to his precinct. Devers, Raywood and Liberty, and parts of Dayton, will remain with Pct. 1 Commissioner Bruce Karbowski, though his boundary line will move in order to take in more residents.
Following the first workshop, Knight was optimistic that the commissioners were making progress.
“Let’s see where all the lines go at this next meeting. I believe the commissioners made some remarkable discoveries today, so let’s just see how it goes on Tuesday,” Knight said.
The commissioners are wasting no time as they have a very real deadline approaching and still must hold public hearings in order to approve the redistricting plan.
“The Legislature sets the deadlines. To go past those would move the March primary election, and we cannot do that. The County does not have the authority,” said Klint Bush, elections administrator for Liberty County.
The dates for the public hearings will be posted as soon as they are set.