El Pasoans call for fair redistricting of communities South of Interstate 10

Local

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – El Paso’s population stagnated over the last 10 years, with many moving to the fringes of the city, setting the stage for the upcoming redistricting of City Council districts.

Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau conducts a population study of communities across the country, which has big implications for how communities are represented at the federal, state, and local levels. The bureau’s results lead to the redistricting process, which is how lawmakers determine what areas a public office will represent by drawing boundaries for their districts.

On Wednesday, the city of El Paso’s redistricting committee commenced that process for the City Council’s districts, which are expected to change due to the movement of people in El Paso.

The City Council is divided up into eight districts that represent the city’s 678,815 people. The number of districts will not go up until the population reaches one million, according to city officials.

Over the last 10 years, 37,661 people moved to what is known as District 5, which represents far East El Paso. It grew the most, by far, among the eight districts, according to the city’s data. District 1, which represents a portion of the West Side and Upper Valley grew by nearly 13,00, District 4, which represents the Northeast, grew by nearly 10,000.

But their growth spells concern for many who track how political boundaries are drawn.

Communities in Central El Paso lost thousands of residents from their districts, which is expected to have an impact on how those areas are redrawn on political redistricting maps. It also means communities in South El Paso may continue to see challenges in representation.

Courtesy of the city of El Paso

Jesus Valdez, the co-chair of the League of Women Voters of El Paso’s redistricting committee, says communities South of Interstate 10 have largely not benefited from the redistricting process. Residents living South of I-10, though with common interests and needs, are split into other districts diluting their representation in City Hall.

“The importance in drawing the maps is not to break communities of interest. And, base on the work the league has done interviewing various people throughout the city, there’s a commonality of communities of interest for all those people that live South of I-10,” Valdez said. “And, there’s an acknowledgement, even from the people North of I-10, that they are disparate areas.”

Valdez was critical of how District 8, which represents communities near the El Paso Country Club down to the Segundo Barrio, was created. And, how District 1, which represents the Upper Valley to Kern Place, was drawn.

Debbie Torres, who attended the Wednesday meeting, called on the redistricting committee to ensure redistricting of communities in the Mission Valley are done correctly so the area’s interests can be adequately represented in City Hall.

Courtesy of the city of El Paso

“Infrastructural issues continue to be a need,” she said. “Especially, South of I-10. So many of our streets do not have sidewalks, do not have safe streets, do not have proper lighting to provide a safe environment for the residents.”

As the city’s redistricting committee prepares to consider recommendations from the public and analyze data from U.S. Census, there appears to be a general goal.

The city has a targeted population for its eight districts at 84,843. And, says there can be a 10 percent deviation range between 80,000 and 89,000 individuals per district.

Courtesy of the city of El Paso.

District 2, which represents Central El Paso, lost the most constituents among all other districts. Data shows over 11,000 residents left the district’s boundaries. And, Districts 3 and 7, which represent portions of the East Side and Lower Valley, lost thousands of constituents as well.

To meet requirements, individuals will need to be redistricted from District 5, which has 118,283 constituents, to other districts. And, constituents from District 1 and District 4 will likely be shuffled to fill requirements in neighbouring districts.

To learn about the schedule for redistricting committee meetings, visit the city’s website at elpasotexas.gov

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