Council votes for redistricting, adds two more districts

March 9, 2011 3:46:23 PM PST
After a long protracted debate, Houston City Council voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to move forward with its redistricting plan.

The vote comes after months of debate over whether or not the city has surpassed the population threshold to add two new districts. The city charter mandated the addition of the two new districts once Houston's population hit 2.1 million.

Currently, the city has 14 seats: the mayor, five at-large council members to represent all the city of Houston, and an additional nine seats -- from A to I -- that represent each district within the city. When redistricting is complete, seats J and K will be added.

Some council members say that the city doesn't need to go through the process because the census data doesn't show the city actually reach that mark.

The initial 2010 Census numbers put the city at only around 550 people shy of that mark, but the mayor says the census miscalculated boundaries. She says with those corrected numbers added in, the city goes above 2.1 million in population.

Council members voted 13-1 Wednesday to accept the census data with only Council Member Brenda Stardig voting no. Following that, city council members voted 13-1 to redistrict and add the two new city council seats. Only Council Member Mike Sullivan opposed that vote.

Mayor Annise Parker said redistricting is the right thing to do.

"We could use other types of evidence, but it's clear that council found that the evidence presented before them that we are above the 2.1 million threshold and we must, not may if we want to, but must add two new council seats and we're gonna proceed down the road," Mayor Parker said.

Now, the city has to go through the numbers, figure out the boundary lines and hold public hearings. Since Houston has a lot of minorities, the new lines also will have to get clearance from the Justice Department.

Mayor Parker said the numbers and the way the lines are drawn have to be fair for everyone, but she doesn't want to pack minorities in one district or split them up too much, which are all crucial points.

We expect all the lines to be drawn by August, when it's time for candidates running for city council to file for office.

The election will take place in November.