The city of New Braunfels continued its redistricting process this week to reconfigure the six single-member districts for city council representation, with the 10-member redistricting committee members reviewing draft maps and population-demographic tables on Thursday.
Rezzin Pullum, an associate attorney with the Austin-based Bojorquez Law Firm, which is consulting the city on the redistricting process, presented Draft Map A, which was previously named “illustrative map” and Draft Map B, which came about from the committee’s review and input during a meeting on Nov. 15.
Pullum has said that redistricting goals include giving each city council district roughly 15,062 residents and ensuring minority voting rights are protected.
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 should be achieved based on the most recent census to complete a legally sound redistricting plan.
Both of the draft maps, where all district boundaries were redrawn, would accomplish those goals. Draft Map A would maintain a population deviation of 1.33%, while Draft Map B would have a deviation of 3.6%. According to Pullum, neither map indicates any “substantial retrogression” in minority voting power.
In deliberations, committee members appeared to favor Draft Map B, which was the result of most of the input from members. When asked about any legal ramifications on map B, Pullum said he was “very confident that it meets all of the legal criteria” if that is the adopted map.
No decisions were made on either map during Thursday’s meeting.
The two draft maps, as well as population and demographic tables, have been published on the city’s website for public review at www.nbtexas.org/redistricting.
Data from the 2020 Census of the community’s changing demographics are 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.
District 2, which includes the southern and southeastern parts of the city, mainly 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%. In contrast, 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 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 includes areas in the north and northeastern parts of the city, has 16,988 residents and District 5, which includes downtown and locations 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.
Next, the committee will meet on Dec. 15 at 5:30 p.m. at New Braunfels City Hall to vote on which map to recommend to the council. A public hearing will take place at that meeting, and residents are invited to make comments.
Feedback on the maps can also be emailed to the City Attorney’s office at firstname.lastname@example.org and residents can submit draft maps of their own to the same email address by midnight on Monday.
Under guidelines approved by council members last month, any redistricting proposals and map submissions from the public must be submitted in writing and show the total population and voting age population by 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.
Council members are expected to consider adopting the final redistricting plan in January.
According to state statute, the redistricting plan must be adopted at least three months prior to the next municipal election, which is scheduled for May.