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An American flag waves in the wind as flags decorate the Main Plaza in honor of Flag Day on Monday, June 14, 2021. MIKALA COMPTON | Herald-Zeitung

New Braunfels has some redistricting to do and a short time to get there, as city leaders continue the process to redraw city council member district boundary lines following the release of 2020 Census figures before a January deadline.

Data from the Census is being used to redraw local, state and national voting districts and will determine control of both houses of the U.S. Congress, Texas Legislature, as well as city and county governments beginning with the 2022 elections. 

Redistricting is prompted by the need to satisfy the legal principle of “one person-one vote,” a requirement stemming from the United States Constitution.

It requires that members of an elected body who are elected from single-member districts have districts that are of substantially equal population.

Rezzin Pullum, an associate attorney with the Austin-based Bojorquez Law Firm, which is consulting the city on the redistricting process, told council members last week the new maps would be required to give each district roughly 15,062 residents and ensure minority voting rights are protected.

“Based on the U.S. Census Bureau data that we received, we go in and observe those demographics and look at how far out of balance each district is compared to what is an ideal target size for the districts,” Pullum said.

An exact equality of population is not required, according to Pullum, but a total maximum deviation of no more than 10% in total population between the most heavily populated and the least populated council member districts.

District 2, which includes the southern and southeastern parts of the city, mostly in Guadalupe County, is the largest district by population, with 21,036 residents, 5,974 people over the target population, a deviation of 39.67%, while District 6, which includes the central part of town, is the smallest district, with 9,821 residents, 5,241 people below the target population, a deviation of minus 34.79%.

According to Pullum, that adds up to a total maximum deviation of 74.46%, prompting council members to elect to continue the redistricting process.

District 1, the southwestern part of the city, is closest to the ideal population with 15,062 residents, while District 3, the northwestern area, contains 13,340 residents. District 4, which contains areas in the north and northeastern parts of the city, has 16,988 residents and District 5, which includes downtown and areas on the eastern side of the city, has 14,162 people.

According to the 2020 Census, New Braunfels’ population is 90,370 residents, increasing about 56.5% from the 2010 count of 57,740.

“You have grown tremendously over the past 10 years, especially when compared to other clients that I have seen and been able to work with,” Pullum told council members. “What that is going to mean as far as redistricting, it’s going to take some reshuffling of all the districts. There’s one district that is close to perfect on the ideal target size. However, with all of the other districts being well out of balance, that will require the redrawing of boundaries of every district in the city of New Braunfels.”

After Pullum’s redistricting briefing, council members then approved two resolutions that will govern the redistricting process.

The first resolution establishes the criteria the city will use in drawing boundary lines, which in addition to the 10% maximum deviation, includes use of identifiable boundaries; using whole voting precincts, where possible and feasible; or, where not feasible, be sure that the plan lends itself to the creation of reasonable and efficient voting precincts; maintaining communities of interest; basing the new plan on existing districts; adopting districts of approximately equal size; drawing districts that are compact and contiguous; keeping existing representatives in their districts; and narrow tailoring to comply with the Voting Rights Act.

The second resolution establishes guidelines for redistricting proposals and map submissions from the public. Under the guidelines, any maps from the public must be submitted in writing and show the total population and voting age population for Black, Hispanic, Asian, white and any other race identified by the census for each proposed council district. 

The maps must redistrict the entire city and conform to the criteria council members will use to draw the council member districts. The city’s redistricting committee approved a recommendation of both resolutions during their Oct. 26 meeting.

The committee’s next steps are to meet the first week of December for the presentation of draft redistricting maps and the week of Dec. 15 for the review of final maps and vote by committee members.

Tentative plans call for council members to hold a public hearing on the proposed redistricting map on Dec. 27. Council members could also adopt the map on that date. 

The latest day to adopt the final map is Jan. 10.

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