Here's how Houstonians can submit their own redistricting plans for council to consider

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Thursday, July 14, 2022
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With Houston leaders looking for input on proposed redistricting maps, ABC13 asked people what changes they'd like to see.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- With Houston leaders looking for input on proposed redistricting maps, ABC13 asked people what changes they'd like to see.

NEW U.S. CENSUS NUMBERS MEANS HOUSTON MUST REDISTRICT ITS CURRENT MAPS

Every 10 years, new U.S. Census numbers mean governments update their districts based on the new population. It's a process the city of Houston has been doing for months.

Earlier this year, leaders held public hearings on this. Proposals were later unveiled, and now, voters have a chance to weigh in during meetings this week and next week.

"Every 10 years after the U.S. Census, the city needs to redraw the 11 district boundaries to make sure the populations are more or less equal," Rice University Political Science Professor Mark Jones explained.

ABC13 asked Houstonians what they think of the current districts.

"That's crazy to have that so far apart," David Gallman said.

"There's one representative doing two different districts that are two totally different areas, that would be really hard," Joan Loyd said.

City leaders said the 11 districts are created based on several factors including population, geographical boundaries, and not packing certain voters into one area.

HOUSTONIANS CAN DO MORE THAN VOICE THEIR CONCERNS, THEY CAN SUBMIT THEIR OWN MAP PROPOSALS

Houston leaders held their first public hearing on the proposals on Wednesday. There will be another hearing next Wednesday, July 20.

ABC13 also asked what changes neighbors would like to see.

"I would think A, would be on the inside and work out. Divide it up evenly, and I would also put it in order," Debbie Mercer said. "I would put it into size, more of in size rather than, C, is very little and A is much bigger," Gallman said.

In addition to attending a hearing, neighbors can also submit their own draft proposals. But political experts don't believe submitting your own proposal would go very far.

"If someone doesn't have anything better to do, sure draw a map," Jones said. "If you think it's going to have an impact, it's about the same odds as winning the lottery."

The City of Houston's Development Department Director Margaret Wallace Brown sent ABC13 the following statement:

"We are seeking public comment and suggestions because we will use those comments when considering if any changes should be made for the final proposal. In my experience, input from the meetings have definitely resulted in revisions to the map. It happened in 2001 and again in 2011. I fully expect to use comments at these public hearings to revise the 2022 proposal."

CHANGES COULD COME, AND IT'S TIED TO A LAWSUIT THREAT TO GET MORE HISPANIC REPRESENTATION

The League of United Latin American Citizens organization has threatened to sue the city for the proposed maps. Houston is 45% Hispanic, yet, it only has one council member.

"There's criticism because no Latino has been elected city-wide since 1999," Jones explained.

Jones said if Houston leaders don't make enough changes, LULAC could sue, and the maps may have to be changed after they're approved. The city will host another hearing on Wednesday, July 20, and the council is expected to vote on the proposed maps in September.

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