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Fort Worth Council Approves New Election Map

Credit: jmtimages (cc) flickr

A new redistricting plan approved by the Fort Worth City Council moves more than 10% of Fort Worth residents to new council districts next year, and could face a court challenge.

In a redistricting requirement to equalize the population of each council district, Councilman Sal Espino in fast-growing North Fort Worth loses 58,000 residents, but the plan increases the Hispanic majority to 62%.

The approved plan does not include a second Hispanic District. Fernando Florez of the United Hispanic Council says it could if five affluent, politically-active, predominantly Anglo precincts were moved from District 9 on the south side. He says those five precincts traditionally dilute the Hispanic vote, preventing a Latino from being elected.

“Those precincts are so different from the core of the district that they don’t belong in it,” Florez told the council. “We would oppose pre-clearance of the staff map, and if necessary go beyond that.”

The United Hispanic Council says it may sue the city of Fort Worth.

District 9 Councilman Joel Burns says the new election boundary map actually increases Hispanic numbers, and he believes the Justice Department will approve.

“We’ve done the hard work of making sure that this is a district and map that will pass our pre-clearance, and not just by a thin margin,” said Burns.

Mayor Betsy Price says everybody worked hard and gave up something to create the new redistricting plan.

“We’ve had lots of input and every time we’ve had maps presented from groups we’ve made some small tweaks. We obviously can’t make everybody happy, but I think it’s been an excellent process,” said Price.

The new voting districts will be in place for the 2013 city council elections.

Former KERA reporter BJ Austin spent more than 25 years in broadcast journalism, anchoring and reporting in Atlanta, New York, New Orleans and Dallas. Along the way, she covered Atlanta City Hall, the Georgia Legislature and the corruption trials of Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards.