Area redistricting gears up - Local taxing entities begin search for consultant

Geoff Folsom
The Odessa American
June 19, 2010


Census workers haven't completed their door-to-door visits, but Ector County's taxing entities are already thinking about what to do with the numbers they get.

The city of Odessa, Ector County, Odessa College, and the Ector County school and hospital districts will go in on a consultant to handle redistricting for the boards of the governing bodies, City Attorney Larry Long said.

"The various governing entities will hire somebody to do the demography to make sure the districts have an equal number of voters and the rights of minorities are protected," Long said.

Finding a consultant will be one of the duties of a committee the entities set up. Long said the committee will also deal with various problems of changing the districts around.

While the U.S. Census Bureau isn't expected to release data used for redistricting until February or March of 2011, the entities will likely consider who to hire to examine the data within the next couple months, Long said.

Hiring a consultant for all the entities makes sense economically, since the entities aren't duplicating work that the other ones do, as well as in making sure the work is done right, Long said.

"Because it's done so infrequently, you want someone who knows what they're doing," Long said.

City Councilman James Goates said hiring a consultant is something the city has "always" done.

"It's not something you can do in house," he said.

While District 2 in northeastern Odessa, has grown both in population and land size, due to annexation, Goates said that doesn't necessarily mean a major change in the district boundaries will occur.

"They don't really base it

totally on population, they base it on all demographics," said Goates, who is in his final term as District 2 representative.

The new district information will be used in the 2012 elections.

Ector County Commissioner Freddie Gardner said using a consultant worked well after the 2000 Census. With the county he said there were few changes in precinct boundary lines. His own precinct, which makes up three-quarters of the county, didn't change at all.

But Gardner said there could be changes this time around.

"Everybody's talking about the increase in population, so that's always a possibility," he said.

According to Census estimates, the county's population increased 11.1 percent to 134,625 between 2000 and 2009.

Ector County Hospital District Board President Mary Thompson, who was on the board during the last redistricting, said hiring a consultant is the best way to make sure changes are done properly.

Thompson expects to see some adjustments in board makeup.

"They try very hard to work with the existing districts to not change them too much, but I think there will be some changes," she said.

ON THE NET

>> Learn more about the redistricting process: www .redistrictinggame.org

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