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Brazos County seeking public comment in precinct redistricting process
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Brazos County seeking public comment in precinct redistricting process

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Brazos County commissioners and Judge Duane Peters worked with Austin-based law firm Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta this week to help redraw precinct boundaries to create more even population distribution before an upcoming public hearing.

The precincts must have a “sufficiently equal population” to comply with the “one-person, one-vote” principal outlined in the Constitution, according to a press release about next week’s redistricting public hearing.

Syd Faulk helped make adjustments to the precinct map to balance the four commissioners’ precincts during a redistricting workshop Oct. 18, and a hearing will take place Wednesday for the public to make comments on what Brazos County precincts should look like.

In Faulk’s presentation, the four precincts each should have 58,462 people but a 10% deviation is allowed in actual population numbers in each precinct.

According to the presentation, which uses the 2020 Census numbers of 233,849 people in Brazos County, Precincts 1 and 2 are overpopulated, while Precincts 3 and 4 are underpopulated.

“That means 3 and 4 need to have more territory, gain some people,” he said, “and 1 and 2 need to lose some territory and population.”

Faulk showed Precinct 1 had 69,562 people, which is an 18.99% overpopulation. Precincts 3 and 4 each was underpopulated by a little more than 11.5%. Precinct 4 had the least deviation with a population of 61,049 that created a 4.42% overpopulation rate.

The public will be able to make comments about the redistricting process or share their ideas for the new precinct lines during Wednesday’s public hearing. All comments must be submitted in writing, even if they are also orally presented to the Brazos County Commissioners Court. The forms can be found online at brazoscountytx.gov/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=292, and paper submission forms can be picked up from the commissioners’ offices during regular business hours Monday through Friday at 200 S. Texas Ave., Suite 310 in Bryan.

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Two things influencing the new lines are anticipated new growth and placing county roads within the Precinct 3 boundaries, Peters said. Neither element is a requirement of the redistricting process, but ones the county wants to consider.

“[Precinct 3] did not have any county roads, but that was part of the goal was to add some county roads to Precinct 3, and, of course, then comply with the law and get the population as equal as we thought we could get in and stay in compliance,” he said.

One of the challenges to creating new boundaries, Peters said, is anticipating growth because sometimes growth happens where it is not expected and planned growth does not happen.

An example, he said, is Precinct 4, which is typically the smallest precinct. He expects it will see previously unanticipated growth due to the RELLIS campus. Then, Precinct 3, which has been contained within the College Station city limits, is preliminarily drawn to include the Southern Pointe community where there is anticipated growth.

“Unless they demolish houses and put up apartment complexes or something, there really wasn’t a way for that area to grow,” Peters said about Precinct 3’s population. “I think adding Southern Pointe ... gives them that area that there actually can be population growth. [Precinct 1] has still got good meaty areas of growth that can still add to population out there.”

Peters said he does not foresee any pitfalls in the redistricting process, but the commissioners are in a tight timeframe due to the delay in the Census numbers, which meant holding workshops in the fall rather than the spring.

“Now that we’ve got them, we have to move forward as quickly as we can,” he said.

The Commissioners Court has set itself a Nov. 12 deadline so potential commissioner candidates can know if they live within the precinct they hope to represent.

The U.S. Congressional districts also are being redrawn, and the most recent proposal has Brazos County moving out of District 17 and into District 10.

The Congressional district maps can be found at dvr.capitol.texas.gov. Wednesday’s public hearing is specifically about the Brazos County commissioners precinct, not state or federal district lines.

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