Boswell asks commission to scrap map

·3 min read

Jan. 18—HARLINGEN — The city's new voting district boundaries might be going into the law books.

Meanwhile, Mayor Chris Boswell is asking members of the city commission's new majority to reconsider the map moving more than 3,000 District 2 registered voters into District 3, killing their chance to vote for their local representative in the May election.

On Jan. 5, Commissioners Richard Uribe, Frank Puente and Rene Perez voted to pass a resolution redrawing the city's single-member district boundaries after U.S. Census numbers tipped most of the districts' populations off balance.

In redrawing the districts' lines, commissioners moved part of District 2, including an upscale area, along with more than 3,000 registered voters, into District 3, which includes Treasure Hills.

As a result, the more than 3,000 registered voters moving from District 2 to District 3 won't be able to cast ballots for their commissioner in the upcoming May election because District 3, which elected its representative last year, won't hold another election until 2024.

On Wednesday, commissioners are planning on putting the new district boundaries into the city's book of ordinances.

During a meeting, Puente and Perez are planning to call on commissioners to pass the first reading of an ordinance adopting the new district lines.

Boswell requests commissioners rescind map

Before commissioners consider voting on the ordinance, Boswell plans to request they reconsider adopting the new district lines.

"I think there's been a lot of outcry from the community about the unfairness of this redistricting plan in the way it prevents about 4,000 voters from participating in this year's election so I wanted to give commissioners an opportunity to reconsider based on the public input," he said Monday.

Last week, former City Commissioners Tudor Uhlhorn and Jay Meade and their wives filed a lawsuit with the Texas Supreme Court, charging "voter suppression," arguing the new boundaries deny more than 3,000 former District 2 registered voters their right to cast ballots in the upcoming election.

In the lawsuit, they requested the court "invalidate" the new boundaries or order commissioners call a special May 7 election for the city's five districts.

On Friday, the court dismissed the case without issuing an opinion.

Commissioners plan to set boundaries into books

Meanwhile, Puente said commissioners plan to go ahead with setting the new boundaries into the ordinance book.

"There's absolutely no reason for rescinding the resolution," he said. "The amount of outcry is equal to or less than those who favor the new district lines."

Earlier this month, Perez proposed the new district boundaries based on demographic data such as income level to make the districts more uniform, part of a plan to offer the districts' constituency better representation on the commission.

Meanwhile, critics accused Perez, Puente and Uribe of redrawing the districts' boundaries to give them political advantages.

During Wednesday's meeting, commissioners plan to respond to questions regarding the new district lines, Puente said.

"We wanted to show transparency and give people an opportunity to speak for or against it and, more importantly, give explanations if there's any questions," he said.

On Thursday, commissioners are set to consider the ordinance's second and final reading.

Background

The law called on commissioners to realign boundaries to try to balance the five districts' population numbers.

Last month, Rolando Rios, a San Antonio-based attorney hired to help the city redraw its five district boundaries, presented a revised version of the city's previous map which didn't stop constituents from voting in the May election.

Meanwhile, commissioners including Puente argued city officials failed to present them with options as the new map's deadline approached early this month.

Then last week, Uhlhorn and Meade argued Uribe, Puente and Perez failed to present their proposal in time for residents, including the thousands of registered voters who won't be able to cast ballots in May, to speak out against the plan.