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Brazos County redistricting map will go into effect 2023
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Brazos County redistricting map will go into effect 2023

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Earlier this month, the Brazos County Commissioners Court approved the Illustrative Plan 2 as the new redistricting map by a 3-2 vote.

The plan is what the court settled on during their Oct. 28 workshop; however, the decision did not come without some contention. The redistricting process occurs every 10 years at the local, state and federal level to adjust representative boundaries to accommodate population and demographic changes, as shown in the decennial Census.

The map approved by the court at its Nov. 2 meeting will be in place for the next 10 years, effective Jan. 1, 2023.

The map moves the northern dividing line between Precincts 1 and 3 FM 2818 and the dividing line between Precincts 2 and 3 at Highway 30, which is the boundary between Bryan and College Station. The Southern Pointe subdivision also will be located in Precinct 1.

The Highway 30 line between Precincts 2 and 3 created the most division on the board with Precinct 2 Commissioner Russ Ford asking for the line to follow the census block along Wickson Creek rather than Highway 30. Precinct 3 Commissioner Nancy Berry called the request an attempt at gerrymandering, saying Ford’s suggestion would move a potential political challenger out of his Precinct 2 and into Berry’s Precinct 3.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Steve Aldrich’s suggested amendment Nov. 2 to move the line to Elmo Weedon Road and Bushy Creek was not discussed further due to the timing of the suggestion and the deadline to approve a map by Nov. 12. Aldrich said the change would address concerns about any political candidates being moved out of a precinct and also increase Precinct 3’s “identity” to include more rural areas and county roads, making it more comparable to the other three precincts.

“The commissioner of Precinct 3 does not get a call about a county road,” Aldrich said after the Nov. 2 meeting. “All the other commissioners do, and so does the judge. I don’t know how that got that way, but it doesn’t matter. We need to have more of a comparable composition for each of the precincts. I think it’s helpful. It gives us all the same perspective. I’m not saying anybody’s at fault or done anything wrong there; I think it’s just a better context for us to work together and moving forward for the benefit of Brazos County.”

Aldrich, who ultimately voted against the map, said he wished he had suggested the amendment earlier in the process.

The court, with the help of Austin-based law firm Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta, held three workshops and one public hearing before approving a plan. The law requires the map to keep the four precincts within a 10% population deviation and equitable in demographic distribution, as required by law.

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Brazos County Judge Duane Peters said the change needed to come at the Oct. 28 workshop in order to be considered fully due to the time constraints created by the delayed Census data, a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We needed to have a plan in place to try to pass something today, so we could get this redistricting accomplished for the county,” Peters said after the Nov. 2 meeting. “… If we don’t get something done, and if we were to delay this another week or so, it puts us further behind. We need to get it done. Unfortunately, we had a short window to get it.”

Peters, who voted in favor of the map, said he is happy with the approved plan, saying he has advocated for Highway 30 to be the dividing line between the two precincts for 20 years.

“It’s a four-lane divided highway, major access into Brazos County, and anybody that drives down there, it’s a very easy determination that Precinct 3’s on one side, and Precinct 2’s on the other side,” he said during the meeting.

Following the Nov. 2 decision, Ford, who voted against the plan, said he was disappointed in the discussions and the decision, saying he felt personally attacked. He would have liked to have had time to explore Aldrich’s suggestion, but said he expected the commissioners to be able to move forward and work well together as they look ahead to future projects, such as an updated needs assessment.

A couple days after the meeting, Berry said, they “agree to disagree” on certain topics, such as redistricting, but a five-person Commissioners Court allows for that disagreement and discussion.

“I think we came up with a fair and equitable solution,” said Berry, who voted in favor of the plan. “… We’ve met our constitutional duty, and I think we’ve served the citizens well going into the future.”

This week, Precinct 4 Commissioner Irma Cauley, who also voted in favor of the plan, said her precinct did not change much in the redistricting process, and she felt good about the decision that was made.

“We can’t let feelings, personal feelings, get in the way of us working well together,” she said about her colleague’s disagreement on the map. “And there was great passion in the last discussion. … We’re only moving forward because there was a vote; the vote, 3-2, and even with that, the majority chose. So we all have to follow that.”

For more information and to see precinct-specific maps of the changes approved Nov. 2, go to brazoscountytx.gov.

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