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Bell County Commissioners Court calls in ‘redistricting guru’

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Posted: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 12:00 pm

By Sonya Campbell

Killeen Daily Herald

BELTON - Those attending the Bell County Commissioners Court meeting Monday were presented with a lesson on redistricting, courtesy of Baylor law Professor David Guinn.

Guinn serves as a redistricting consultant for Bell County, along with a co-worker, Professor Michael Morrison.

During his presentation, Guinn - referred to by County Judge Jon Burrows as a "redistricting guru" - noted this year marks the third time he has worked with Bell County in the redistricting process.

Redistricting takes place every 10 years, and is based on recently updated U.S. Census figures.

County commissioner, justice of the peace and constable precincts are affected.

Guinn pointed to two rules of law that apply to the redistricting process for commissioner precincts.

First is the "One Man, One Vote Rule," which is derived from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Reynolds v. Simms, which held that state political districts of unequal size resulted in under-representation of some citizens' interests while over-representing others.

To meet constitutional standards, districts must be reapportioned to ensure approximate equal population.

The second law is the Voting Rights Act, a federal redistricting requirement that ensures representatives reflect the nation's ethnic and racial diversity.

"We must protect minority citizens when redrawing boundaries," Guinn said.

He noted Bell County is "out of sync" by 26 percent.

"We've got to get it below 10 percent and still protect minority citizens," he said.

The disparity in population primarily comes from precincts 3 and 4, represented by Commissioners Eddy Lange and John Fisher, respectively.

Precinct 3 is about 12,000 people short while Precinct 4 is over by an estimated 9,000, Guinn said.

In response to the news, Lange announced he was officially welcoming the thousands of new people who are expected to be redrawn into his precinct.

Overall, Guinn said Bell County has experienced tremendous growth in the past 10 years, primarily due to its location within the corridor that includes the Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston and Austin triangle. And he expects that trend to continue.

He noted the Lone Star State is projected to reach a population of 41 million during the next 20 years, with 80 percent of the people living in the "golden triangle."

In regard to Bell County, 2010 Census figures show most of its growth has been among minorities, namely the Hispanic population.

"We live in a changing world in Texas," Guinn said.

County officials were provided with a tentative redistricting plan, which Guinn referred to as "a starting point."

He suggested keeping changes to a minimal when it comes to existing boundaries and noted the state's attorney general must sign off on the plan.

The county's minority profile would be a key consideration, Guinn said.

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