Commissioners approve redistricting plan
by Dolores Hamilton
Wichita County Commissioners unanimously approved a plan for redistricting of commissioners court precincts during the second and final hearing Monday night.
A large group attended the hearing to discuss the minority percentage in Precinct 3, which they hoped to be greater so that a minority candidate for office has an even chance of getting elected.
Citizens were given the opportunity to examine the maps and hear information from Robert Bass of Allison, Bass & Associates.
Earlier, Bass had told the commissioners that due to the wide distribution of minority population, a “minority/majority” district would be physically impossible. “We have achieved a statistically significant minority impact district of nearly 45 percent in Precinct 3, and I believe this will satisfy the voting rights act.”
According to County Judge Woody Gossom, “the increased minority percentage (in Precinct 3) appears to be the optimal possibility given all of the required conditions within the law.
Federal law requires precincts for local offices to be redrawn every 10 years after the U.S. Census is released. Every county is divided into four precincts that have to be roughly equal in population. Also, when redrawing lines, local government must ensure the precincts are not being redrawn to disenfranchise minorities.
The population of Wichita County is 127,871. Precinct one’s actual population is 32,929; Precinct 2, 31,009; Precinct 3, 32,304; and Precinct 4, 31,629.
The ideal population number is 31,968 for each precinct, which is the total county population divided by four.
Iowa Park is in Precinct 3, and Barry Mahler is the elected commissioner. The ethnic background in Precinct 3 is Anglo, 17,411; Black, 5,370; American Indian, 318; Asian, 293; Hispanic, 8,368; Hawaii/Pac. Is., 16; Other, 30; and Multi-Race, 498.
Bass will work with County Clerk Lori Bohannon to draw voting precinct lines, and when this is completed, the plan will be submitted to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval. The department has 60 days to review the plan.
The newly-drawn districts will be in place for the state’s 2012 primary elections, and candidate filing can begin as early as Nov. 12.