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Travis County Commissioners approve new precinct borders

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 by Michael Kanin

The Travis County Commissioners Court on Tuesday finally approved the basic set of lines that it will use to redraw districts for its four geographically elected members. The move came on a 4-1 vote.


Pct. 3 Commissioner Karen Huber cast the lone dissenting vote. From the dais, she questioned the actions of Pct. 1 Commissioner Ron Davis and Pct. 4 Commissioner Margaret Gomez. “I would just like to point out that I find it highly intriguing that this new map…was drawn by agreement between commissioners from Precinct 1 and Precinct 4,” she said. “The commissioner of Precinct 3 was not included in some way in discussions of how these lines were drawn.”


Though County Judge Sam Biscoe blamed that situation on legal prohibitions associated with the Open Meetings Act, Huber was not appeased. “I have to say, I’m disappointed in the process as it relates to Precinct 1 and 4.”


As delineated, the new districts seem to make Huber’s region the most friendly to a potential challenge from a Republican. According to figures provided by county redistricting consultant George Korbel, roughly 45 percent of the voters in Huber’s precinct voted for John McCain in the 2008 Presidential election. About 47 percent pulled the lever for Gov. Rick Perry in his 2010 re-election bid.


Huber, however, is even more concerned about her new party demographics. She maintains that the figures for the 2008 Presidential contest and the 2010 Texas Gubernatorial election are not accurate representations of the make-up of her district. “I continue to have a problem with using these two races to address the percentages for partisan purposes,” she said. “Precinct 3 has a highly engaged voter electorate at the state and federal levels…Look at the down ballot races—including commissioners’ races…they are lower.”


Any Huber challenger could get support from the Shady Hollow neighborhood. The voters there remain deeply angered by their Commissioner’s opposition to the SH 45 Southwest project that the court ultimately rejected. Despite Huber’s efforts to shift those boxes to Gomez’s district (See In Fact Daily, August 17, 2011), they remained part of Precinct 3.


When asked if her neighborhood might offer up a candidate to oppose Huber, Shady Hollow Homeowners Association Board Member Pam Baggett told In Fact Daily that that sort of thing is “always a possibility.”


The situation for Huber was somewhat mitigated by Pct. 2 Commissioner Sarah Eckhardt, who offered her slice of Austin’s central business district to Huber. That act raised the percentage of Obama voters in Huber’s district from 52.58 to 53.06 percent. The percentage of future Pct. 3 voters who backed former Houston Mayor Bill White against Perry in 2010 stayed about the same.


Huber thanked Eckhardt in front of the court. “She has given and given and given in this process; she’s worked with Precinct 1, she’s worked with Precinct 3, and I think she alone has demonstrated a willingness to consider the county as a whole and the needs of all its constituents.”


The court could do a bit of street-by-street map clean-up at next week’s meeting. However, no major new changes are expected.

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