LWVCA Forum to Identify “Communities of Interest” as Redistricting Begins
The U.S. Census Bureau released data last week that provides a snapshot of demographics in Texas counties like Comal, now the second-fastest growing county in the Texas.
The county saw its population grow by 49% since 2010, from 108,472 to 161,501 in 2020. Comal is now the fifth-fastest growing county in the United States.
Texas legislators will use this 2020 census data to realign state legislative and congressional districts before the 2022 election.
The federal government will use it to allocate billions of dollars in funding to hospitals, roads, schools, and other critical infrastructure.
To ensure Comal and surrounding counties are fairly represented during redistricting, League of Women Voters of the Comal Area (LWVCA), in conjunction with Fair Maps Texas, hosts a nonpartisan Redistricting Mapping Event from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
This Zoom meeting will allow LVWCA identify, define and map accurate Communities of Interest (COI) by engaging leaders from all parts of the community.
Census data should be used to “discover who we are and what resources and places are important and define us as a community,” LWVCA said in a statement.
LWVCA defines a COI as a group of individuals united by shared interests or values who should be kept together in the same district so they can be fairly and effectively represented by their elected officials.
Thanks to gerrymandering — used by politicians of both parties to keep themselves in power by diluting the votes of their opposition — New Braunfels and surrounding areas are divided into three U.S. congressional districts, LWVCA said. They are districts 13, 15 and 21.
Texas Congressional District 35 runs from Austin to San Antonio, cutting a four-mile-wide corridor through New Braunfels on either side of I-35. Congressional Disrict 15 links the community of Seguin to those on the border. District 21 links fast-growing areas in Comal County with sparsely populated rural areas to the west.
“Redistricting is a priority issue for the League of Women Voters because it is one of the most-important processes in our democracy and determines the power of your vote,” said LWVCA President Jerrie Champlin. “We think voters should choose their representatives instead of our representatives selecting their voters through gerrymandering.
“To end hyper-partisan redistricting, the League supports the creation of an independent redistricting commission that reflects the diversity of our communities, uses clear timelines, criteria and procedures to draw district maps, and allows for citizen participation throughout the process,” she said.
Daphne Spraitzar, LWVCA vice president for Programs and a member of the League’s Redistricting Committee, said mapping communities includes identifying and reflecting on the importance of those places and resources, and how they look on a map.
The process should help define unmet needs and areas of concern, she said.
“We all want safe neighborhoods, good schools, health care, transportation, housing, clean air, water, dependable energy, access to internet broadband, employment opportunities, recreation areas, parks, libraries, newspapers, music and art,” Spraitzar said.
The COI mapping event will explore differences within communities in Comal and Guadalupe counties, what they look like on a map, and how the current congressional representation splits communities.
Maps developed at the League’s event will provide feedback to the Texas’s house and senate redistricting committees as they redraw voting district maps for the U.S. Congress, Texas House and Senate, and the State Board of Education.
Spraitzar said LWVCA wants to “respect community integrity.”
Existing district lines split communities and combine with them other, disparate communities, which in turn limits the abiity and effectiveness of elected representatives to help maintain healthy communities and growth, she said.
Fair Maps Texas, a nonpartisan reform effort aimed at fixing Texas’ “broken redistricting system,” said it is collaborating with LWVCA to give voters a choice in how their district maps are drawn.
The group said career politicians have drawn and approved gerrymandered legislative maps for decades.
“This unfair approach to legislative maps reduces competition, prevents Texans from being able to cast a meaningful vote, and discourages new people running from office,” Fair Maps Texas said in a statement. “Voters deserve to have a voice in how their district maps are drawn.”
Also participating in Saturday’s Zoom conference are the New Braunfels IDEA Forum, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), Comal County Conservation Alliance (CCCA), New Braunfels Martin Luther King Association, San Marcos River Foundation, area chambers of commerce, local elected officials and other faith and community leaders.
LWVCA will sponsor a follow-up session at 1 p.m. Sept. 18 that includes Hays County.