HOUSTON – Harris County commissioners approved a controversial redistricting plan Tuesday that has already sparked a court challenge.
The county is divided into four county commissioner precincts. The lines must be redrawn after every U.S. census to equalize population between precincts.
Hispanic groups contend the new precinct lines dilute Hispanic voting strength on the eastside.
In 2010, the county's only Hispanic commissioner, Sylvia Garcia, lost her re-election bid. She was defeated by Republican Jack Morman.
Some Hispanics have said that the new plan cuts some Hispanic voters out of Precinct 2, which Morman represents. The new boundaries reduce the number of Hispanic voters in Precinct 2 from 55.2 percent to 53.4 percent.
"We Hispanic people will not have somebody who really knows what we know and what we need," resident Alberto Pertino said.
"We pretty much feel that we need the representation," resident Elise Gonzales said. "We got the representation in City Council and at the state representative level. Now we need it at commissioner's court level."
The county attorneys who put together the new map said Precinct 2 remains a Hispanic-majority precinct, and that it meets the requirements of the Voting Rights Act.
"A plan has to be looked at as a total plan for Harris County, not just a plan for one precinct or another," said Gene Locke, special counsel.
A federal lawsuit was filed before the vote on the plan was taken. It's likely that a judge will decide what's fair.