By Lauren Cabral
The Cove Herald
The division of Copperas Cove was again the subject of debate at the second meeting of the Coryell County Redistricting Committee Friday, when county citizens considered two new plans to redraw voting lines for the county's four precincts.
Commissioner Jack Wall asked Baylor University law professors David M. Guinn and Michael Morrison, who are providing legal counsel to the group, to come up with the options after hearing feedback from committee members.
The two new plans, Wall Plan 1 and Wall Plan 2, split Copperas Cove into four precincts instead of three.
Wall Plan 1 would mean Coveites would represent 75.5 percent of Precinct 1's constituents, 46.66 percent of Precinct 2's, 1.05 percent of Precinct 3's and 62.65 percent of Precinct 4.
Wall Plan 2 would mean Copperas Cove residents would make up 71.1 percent of Precinct 1's voters, 12.89 of Precinct 2's, 36.15 percent of Precinct 3's and 62.65 percent of Precinct 4's.
Wall said he worked with Morrison, who has been drawing up the plans, because committee members had voiced concerns about representation for the city. He said he believes the plans would give the most voice to Copperas Cove because all four commissioners would represent the city.
Precinct 2 Commissioner Daren Moore said he did not like the Wall plans, which changed his precinct, as well as Precinct 3, represented by Don Jones, significantly and took away some of his Copperas Cove voters.
"That really caught me off guard," he said. "That plan took away most of what Precinct 2 represented of Copperas Cove. ... I would guess I would be representing maybe 20 percent of what I previously would have."
Moore said he did not believe Wall should have visited Morrison to draw new plans, but perhaps a committee member should have.
"I feel like that direction should have come from the committee, not the commissioners court," he said.
He said he supported the first plan presented at the committee's first meeting, which made minor adjustments to precinct lines to balance population iniquities, and he was proud to represent all the people of Coryell County.
"I have no problem with representing the citizens of Copperas Cove or the citizens of Precinct 2. I feel like I've always had a good rapport with the citizens there," he said. "We all make decisions that affect every precinct and everybody."
Wall explained Precincts 1 and 4, which he and Justin Latham represent, did not have as much flexibility to be changed due to redistricting requirements.
Lines must be drawn to meet the one-person, one-vote standard and the Federal Voting Rights Act. This represents a challenge, Guinn said, because although the county covers 1,057 square miles, 63.38 percent of the county's 67,722
population is concentrated in the cities of Gatesville and Copperas Cove.
Existing lines have population disparities well above the 9.9 percent maximum deviation allowed between the four precincts, and each plan has reduced those to less than 6 percent, Guinn said.
The committee also is considering the plan presented at its first meeting on March 30. The division of Copperas Cove was heavily debated then.
Those plans split Copperas Cove into three precincts. A few Copperas Cove residents said they'd like more representation, and would like the city to be less divided.
"The biggest complaint I hear is we're split up in three different precincts," said Jim Schmitz, a Copperas Cove councilman and committee member, at the first meeting. He asked for another model to be made putting the city in one precinct.
Others responded that putting Copperas Cove in one precinct, or even in two, would throw off not only the population balance, but the minority balance in the precinct as well, since the city is more diverse than other area of the county.
"When you balance everything out, Cove will continue to have to be split up. If you make it two, it makes (the precincts) not in balance with the minorities," said committee member Paul Edge, who lives in the northern part of Coryell County.
"I think probably the plan they drew up and presented here, we'll have to approve to make it work."
Guinn said it was not unusual to have multiple plans on the table, and his office is waiting for direction on whether or not to draw up more options. He said the committee should give a recommendation soon on which it prefers.
A public hearing will then be held, and the commissioners court will have to pass a formal resolution in support of a plan.
Guinn added that if the county is fractured when congressional redistricting is finalized, which could take six to eight months, redistricting would have to be redone.
Contact Lauren Cabral at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7476.