Harris County Commissioners Fight Over New County Maps That Would Benefit Democrats – Houston Public Media

Harris County Commissioners Court June 29, 2021.

Harris County leaders will hear a second day of testimony on Tuesday over controversial plans to redraw the boundaries of the Commissioners’ Precinct – a plan Republican commissioners called partisan gerrymandering and which Democrats said was an attempt to restore the balance on the maps established by conservatives in the last round of redistribution.

According to the main proposal submitted by Democratic Commissioner Rodney Ellis, four of the five constituencies would change dramatically. This would expand Republican Commissioner Jack Cagle’s Ward 4 to absorb much of unincorporated Harris County.

Ellis’ proposal would leave his own Ward 1 largely unchanged.

Cagle’s Compound would absorb the northeast part of what is now Compound 2 and the northwest part of what is now Compound 3, the latter being represented by Republican Commissioner Tom Ramsey.

It would also include Katy in West Harris County and Baytown in East Harris County, which would make it much more difficult for Ward 4 to serve all of its constituents, Cagle said.

“Katy… is a great place. Baytown is a great place,” Cagle said. “But Baytown is in (Galveston) Bay and Katy is in Katy’s Prairie. The widespread enclosure and outer boundary is not fair or just for either of these (groups). “

Cagle said it was likely the Democratic majority on the ground would be able to pass Ellis ‘proposed card over Republicans’ objections, but said that wouldn’t be the end of the story.

“At the moment, Commissioner Ramsey and I are in two hands, with lawyers,” Cagle said.

When asked if that meant he and Ramsey were ready to sue if the card was adopted, Cagle replied, “Absolutely.”

In a statement, Ellis argued that the county was already gerrymandered by Republicans and that his map would better serve the people of Harris County.

“Our plan is to keep the communities of interest together and bring together areas that have been separated for years,” Ellis said. “For too long this county has been intentionally divided by perimeter boundaries that deny people the ability to elect a representation that accurately reflects the views of the majority of our communities. The proposed boundaries put an end to that suppression continues and allow the voices and opinions of the people to be reflected by those who represent them.

Asked about a possible legal battle, Ellis said the cards met federal standards.

“It is not surprising that Commissioners Cagle and Ramsey use the threat of a lawsuit in their continued attempts to suppress the voices of the residents of Harris County,” Ellis said.

The proposed map would compact Democratic Commissioner Adrian Garcia’s Compound 2 into an area dominated by predominantly Latin American neighborhoods on the southeast side of Harris County, as well as Democratic-majority neighborhoods in downtown and northern Harris County. Houston.

In contrast, Ramsey Ward 3 would be reduced to a corner of southwest Harris County that has become increasingly competitive in recent election cycles, straddling the Democratic Representative United States’ 7th Congressional District. Lizzie Fletcher.

By Ramsey’s own estimate, Ellis’ plan would cost his constituency around half a million voters.

“This card will make it nearly impossible for Commissioner Ramsey to win this next election,” Cagle said, and therefore the public can expect that after the 2024 election cycle they can expect to see his taxes increase, as there will no longer be the possibility of having the super quorum requirement to stop the taxpayer tax (increases).

Under Texas state law, a four-in-five super majority of a county commissioner’s tribunal must be present to vote on tax increases. In 2019, Cagle and then-Republican Commissioner Steve Radack broke the quorum to block a tax hike proposed by the new Democratic majority in Harris County Commissioners’ Court.

Judge Lina Hidalgo and Harris County Commissioners previously testified publicly about the proposed map, as well as maps offered by Ramsey, Cagle and others, last Thursday night. Over 130 speakers attended this meeting. The second day of public testimony has been scheduled for Tuesday as part of the Court of Commissioners’ supplemental agenda.

“Apart from my proposals and those of Commissioner Cagle, services to (residents of Ward 3) will be disrupted and suffer from others that have been proposed. Hundreds of thousands of residents will be negatively affected,” Ramsey said in a statement. published on its website. .

The court has scheduled at least one more day of public testimony for this Thursday afternoon. However, Commissioners Ramsey and Cagle expressed concern that the final vote could take place as early as Tuesday.

The county redistribution process, once a decade, follows the statewide redistribution recently completed during the Third Special Session of the State Legislature.

Democrats have strongly criticized this process for adopting partisan Republican gerrymanders from the state congressional delegation, as well as the State House of Representatives, State Senate, and the Board of Education of the state.

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