County precinct boundaries set
From staff reports
After a total of four meetings — including two workshops lasting a cumulative several hours — Caldwell County Commissioners have given their blessings to a map with adjusted precinct boundaries that evenly distributes the population with respect to racial demographics.
“We have now had two workshops and two public hearings,” said Caldwell County Judge Hoppy Haden, who praised the court and the party chairs for their hard work. “I appreciate everyone’s willingness to come back to the table until we got something to work with.”
On Monday, Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the new map, which accomplished the seemingly Sisyphean task of redistributing roughly 3,000 people from Pct. 4, which has grown sizably over the past decade, to the other three precincts while maintaining Pct.3 and Pct. 4’s majority minority status.
A majority of citizens in the areas that comprise Pct. 3 and Pct. 4 are Hispanic, according to 2020 decennial Census data.
The map, which will be available to view via a link on the Caldwell County website, underwent four revisions before commissioners voted on a final revision that puts the area of the county that includes Lockhart’s Windridge neighborhood in Precinct 1 and repairs “fractures” in neighborhoods located in East Lockhart near Pecan Street and Northern Lockhart, which includes Silent Valley.
These two neighborhoods will remain respectively in Precincts 4 and 3.
The maximum deviation between the population in the most populated precinct and the least populated allowed is 10 percent, and the map approved has a maximum deviation of approximately 3 percent. Precincts 3 and 4 remained majority minority precincts both in total population and in voting age population. Precinct 1’s Anglo community is slightly less in number than its Hispanic population.
“Only Precinct 2 has a majority Anglo population,” said lawyer Eric Magee, whose firm Allison, Bass and Magee helped draw the map.
The chairs of both Caldwell County political parties took the podium on Monday to praise the commissioners for the fairness of the map and the process.
“I just want to put on the record that I want to thank you for working with us and letting us show you some of the problems we saw with the map,” Democratic Party Chair Alfredo Munoz told the court. “I showed some of my friends from Corpus Christi the map that we came up with and they asked me if it’s a court that’s all Democrats, and I said, no, a majority of them are Republicans.
“I just want to say thank you so much for working with us. I’m very proud of what we can do as a group together. I’m good friends with Pat Daniel, the Republican Chair, and I think that’s what we need to show everyone. That we’re going to work together and not play partisan games.”
Daniel echoed Munoz’s sentiment.
“I know when you were working through that you were very aware of all the demographics involved and you were very careful,” he told commissioners. “I would like to say thank you to Alfredo for his kind words because we are working together for humanity and for the good of our citizens.”
The bipartisan pleasantries continued with Haden, who thanked his county’s party chairs for working together and said he enjoyed seeing them share a laugh as he entered the courtroom.
“I bet this is the only county in the country where you can see the two party chairs doing that, and I hope everyone can follow their example,” Haden said.
The smooth final public hearing and court session and bipartisan niceties contrasted noticeably with previous meetings in which opponents of the proposed map showed up to a public hearing held a week prior, contending that the map would cause voter confusion and dilution of minorities in majority minority precincts.
While some dissenters maintained the map was still unfair, with one stating he believed commissioners should circumvent the law, which requires counties to consider Census data rather than registered voters, Magee pointed to the percentages to argue the contrary, noting the final version had actually increased the percentage of Hispanic voters in precincts 1, 3 and 4.
The term “disenfranchisement of voters” is just not there because we actually strengthened (the minority population) in every single (precinct),” Magee said. “We paid very close attention to the Hispanic community in particular because that’s been where a majority of the growth was.”
Commissioners canvassed the results of the 2021 Constitutional Amendment Election at their Monday meeting. Elections Administrator Kimber Daniel said turnout had been poor, with only 1,999 people of approximately 25,000 registered voters heading to the polling locations. The Nov. 2 general election did not include a contested race for a federal, state or local office on the ballot.
The courtroom is bugged, but not the way you’re thinking. If you’re an avid watcher of Commissioner’s Court meetings, you may remember the meeting about a year ago where a rogue paper wasp decided to make an appearance despite failing to fill out a form to address the court, hovering between Haden and Commissioner Ed Theriot, who famously swatted the wasp, angering it and leading it to sting the County Judge. One of its ovipositor-possessing descendants made a similar visit to the dais on Monday during the break before the public hearing, apparently hovering between the judge and Theriot at one point, and between the judge and Pct. 2 Commissioner Barbara Shelton at another. “I told them both ‘don’t you dare,’” said Haden, laughing. As the court came back into session, Commissioner Joe Roland told the judge not to worry. “They don’t sting this time of year,” Roland said.