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Its very unusual for a county to begin redistricting before the federal census.
But some on the Collin County Commissioners Court do not want to wait until 2011 to redraw the commissioners and justice of the peace boundaries. The argument is that there is such a large population disparity between some of the commissioners precincts, that it is unfair to the voters to make them wait until the decennial census.
So the county wants to generate its own population statistics and not wait.
The first federal "enumeration" as the Constitution calls the census was back in 1790. Since then there have been 21 censuses. In the 230+ tears since our independence only in those 21 years have all the voting districts in the nation equaled or been 'balanced' with the census data. In the other 212 years of our history, the districts have been out of balance with the data. Yet we do not redistrict every year.
We don't redistrict at will because for a local government to create its own statistics and use them to set the geographic boundaries of its own elected officials is opening the Pandora's box of opportunism - inviting self-serving politicians to manipulate the data and create fraudulent districts.
Using census data makes sense.
It is impartial and independent of local pressures. It is universally accepted and will be upheld in any court challenge. The Census Bureau is the acknowledged expert in counting people - it has a rigorous methodology, a transparent process, numerous checks and balances and scientific validity.
Can locally generated data hope to meet such a high standard? I think not. It was only a few weeks ago that the press was revealing highly suspect population estimates from the City of Melissa.
According to press reports the mayor of Melissa was counting water meters and multiplying that count by a "resident per meter" factor he had devised. The result was in no way scientifically valid. Instead it was comic. Could the same thing happen countywide?
I spent some time today looking at the process which the county proposes to use to estimate the precinct by precinct population data needed to redistrict. Rest assured, the county is not counting water meters, but they are using the same mathematical method followed by the Mayor of Melissa.
The county's GIS Department obtained the listing of all properties from the Central Appraisal District. Each property description comes with a code describing if it is 'single-family residential', 'homestead', multifamily, etc. The GIS Department then assigned to each code a factor - for example 3.9 people per single family homestead. (These factors were drawn from historical statistics.) Multiply the properties times the factors, add them all up, and viola! you have population data much better than counting water meters.
There are some real problems with this approach to estimating population.
First, it is not verified or tested. No one is going out and knocking on doors as the census bureau does to verify that the mathematical assumptions are really correct. Neither has this method been "backtracked" to year 2000 to see if it even would have worked then.
Second, the goal of GIS is to be as accurate as they can with, as they describe it, "limited resources". The goal should be to be as close to what the census will report, but there is not any work being done to normalize the data to census. The problem is that statistics lie. They chase a moving target. for example, in the time it takes me to write this piece, the population of Collin County will have changed.
At least 4 different organizations estimate population in the county. In the Spring of each year, the Council of Governments releases its population estimates. And then in September the Texas State Data Center releases its estimates. The county has its estimate, and then there is the census bureau.
According to GIS, the COG data usually estimates the highest number of people in the county and the Census the lowest, with the Texas Data Center somewhere in between. GIS believes its count will fall in between COG and the State, but they can't predict how different they will be from the actual US Census.
Voting districts need to be drawn so that they almost exactly equal each other in population. Judge Self noted at the last court that these precincts needed to be within 1/2% to 1% of each other.
The problem is that when the real census data comes in, the districts won't match anymore. Simple math proves that if the county data is 95% accurate and the districts were drawn to 99% accuracy, then when the census data is received, these districts will now only be 94% correct and will have to be redrawn.
|Source||2007 Est. Pop.|
So how will redistricting actually help the citizens?
I don't see how it will. First, if the lines are redrawn now, and then again in 2011, some voters could find themselves having lived in 3 different commissioners precincts in two years, all without packing up and moving. This will create confusion and hard feelings.
Second, the most out of balance precinct is Precinct 3 (Joe Jaynes). Because of population growth, precinct 3 now holds over 33% of the counties voters. But redistricting now won't help those voters at all. The precinct 3 commissioner's next election isn't until 2012, AFTER the 2010 census.
Third, the proposed counting methodology probably won't survive a court challenge. If there is a close primary or or November race, the whole election results could be held up or at worse redone.
The law requires that the Commissioners Precincts be fairly and accurately drawn to conform with the last census. The present precincts, as out of balance as they are, meet that requirement. Any redrawing of lines prior to the next enumeration will by its very nature not meet that legal test. Likewise, when Texas redrew its congressional district lines in 2003, it used the older 2000 census data. Attempts to use more current estimated data were rebuffed by the legislature and the Attorney General. That redistricting scheme went all the way to the US Supreme Court, which upheld the use of the census data.
Redistricting is a political act.
Politicians redistrict for one of two reasons, one because the law makes them do it every ten years or two to use the new boundaries to gain a political advantage.
It is rare to redistrict outside of the ten year census. As I mentioned, the last important time it was done was in 2003. That attempt did hold up, but not before it went all the way to the US Supreme Court. Before it was all over the US Speaker of the House had to resign his seat in congress.
Tom Delay was an ambitious politician, jockeying for advantage. He used the redistricting effort to increase his party's representation in congress.
So in looking at Collin County's "out of cycle" redistricting effort, one has to ask, "Who is pushing it and what do they want to gain?"
It was obvious in Monday's Commissioners Court meeting that the primary driver of this redistricting effort is County Judge Keith Self.
Self is elected countywide, so he can't be trying to enhance his own electability.
Two commissioners seats are up for re-election in 2010. Jerry Hoagland in Precinct 2 and Kathy Ward in Precinct 4. It's no secret that Judge Self recruited candidates to challenge Commissioners Phyllis Cole and Joe Jaynes in 2008. His candidate did unseat Ms. Cole. Self is ambitious and he's proven to be willing to go toe to toe with an incumbent fellow Republican to gain control of the court.
It's also no secret that Jerry Hoagland would love to get rid of Keith Self and that Self has similar feelings against Hoagland. So I'd be looking to see what advantage Self believes he can gain by redrawing Hoagland's precinct. I suspect that when you get down to the real reason for this whole redistricting thing, what you'll find is Self trying to best Hoagland - or at least keep Jerry off balance.
It's got nothing to do with building precincts for a 'one man, one vote' advantage to the voters.
You are right.
It's the same reason Democrats in California do the very same thing.
It's the same reason this White House has taken the census duties and Rham Emmanual will be in charge of it and they will estimate the count.
It's the same reason California Democrats do the very same thing.
The fact that both Tim Matthews and Thomas Walters have the exact same IP address is kind of a give away. You both are using the same computer, and I'd bet wearing the same pair of pants.
I guess its slightly comforting that all your personas are male, I'll try not to worry about you until you morph into Sally Mae Summers.
I had 3 different U.S. Representatives the first 20 years I lived at my current address. That was back when the Dems controlled the Texas State House.
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