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Irving's New Single Member District Council Election


By BJ Austin, KERA News

Dallas, TX – Saturday's City Council election in Irving will be historic. Voters will elect a "minority" city council member after a federal court order requiring "single member district" council seats. Today is the last day of early voting. KERA's BJ Austin reports.

Early voting at Irving City Hall has been steady, but not crowded. Outside City Hall, voters Joe Matelich and Mark Delcamp worry about confusion and voter turnout with the new single member districts.

Matelich: If you look at the map, it drives you crazy. They know basically what place they're voting for, but the boundaries, they have no idea.

Delcamp: Just this specific district it's going to make a much smaller number of people actually responsible for who gets elected.

Nearby, Carlos Vega and Uletha Stewart approve of the change if it gives minorities a better chance to win.

Vega: It's better for the city: better future.

Stewart: I think it's great to allow the disenfranchised an opportunity to help get people in.

Last year, Judge Jorge Solis ruled Irving's at-large election system diluted Hispanic voting strength, preventing election of a Latino. More than 40 percent of Irving's population is Hispanic. All current council members are white.

The new system has six single-member council districts, two at-large seats and citywide election of the Mayor.

Anthony Bond, longtime Irving NAACP activist, says it's time for some diversity in political leadership.

Bond: One of the reasons I've always pushed for single member districts is because it's a more representative form of government.

Councilmember Beth Van Duyne decided NOT to run again in her new single member district. She likens the system to a scene from the animated movie "Finding Nemo."

Van Duyne: And the fish plops up on the rock and you've got the seagulls all sitting around going Mine, Mine, Mine. You're going to have everybody going after individually, representing only their district. I think it's detrimental.

AT SMU, political scientist Rita Kirk says there will be a new territorial focus, but single member districts allow constituent viewpoints that might otherwise be overlooked.

Seven candidates are running for three places on the Irving City Council.

Email BJ Austin