Dallas Redistricting Commission Seeks Public Input

Dallas Redistricting Commission Desperate for Public Input
View of Dallas City Hall. | Image from the City of Dallas Website

In December 2021, the Dallas Redistricting Commission announced a series of in-person and online town hall meetings to get feedback from the public prior to drafting the redistricting maps that will decide which neighborhoods fall into each district for the next decade.

So far, two meetings have been held, and Commission members say they need more engagement from the community as the last of the meeting date approaches.

“I, like many other Redistricting Commissioners, have raised concerns over our marketing and outreach efforts,” Randall Bryant, the District 8 Representative, said in an email. “I believe, given the general lack of education and apathy on the topic of redistricting in conjunction with the overall navigation of a global health crisis, we must be more strategic and creative in targeting our residents if we truly value their input.”

The redistricting process is necessary by law and is conducted every ten years following the U.S. Census. The process balances each of the fourteen Council Districts in Dallas by population. Texas law requires no more than a ten percent deviation from the most to the least populous district. 

Of the eight town hall meetings, only two will be available to remote viewers. Only meetings held at City Hall will be provided virtually. The first meeting, held in early December 2021, and the last meeting on February 10, will be available for remote viewing. 

“The participation by the public thus far has been much lighter than any of us would like to see. I believe with the process of town halls occurring during the busy holiday season and now with concerns of COVID, it will be difficult for people to attend in person meetings,” said Alan Walne, District 10 representative. “Staff has reported on the effort to get the word out but outreach continues to be a challenge. Residents need to be involved to make sure they feel that they have had a voice in how they will be represented and feel confident that lines have been drawn fairly.”

According to the U.S. Census data presented by Priti Mathur from ARC Consulting, Inc. at the first meeting, all fourteen districts in Dallas will require at least some adjustment; several may experience significant changes in representation. District 14, which encompasses downtown, will shrink the most, while Districts 1 and 5 will grow. 

“I really want to emphasize this: this is backyards, this is block by block, this is street by street. How is this district going to be drawn? Who is included, and who is going to be in someone else’s district,” Kebran Alexander, Commission Member for District 4, said in an interview with The Dallas Express. “At some point, it is going to become more contentious in some parts of town than others.”

Like Bryant, Alexander worries that outreach efforts have been too little and ineffective while dealing with the reality of the COVID pandemic and a changed world.

“It’s a little disorienting when you are used to people filling a room… and now there are four or five people there,” Alexander said. “You don’t want COVID to get in the way of participation. So, you hope that somehow, someway, we get the word out. Nobody is getting the word out.”

District 4 will grow when redistricting is complete, but only slightly. The district’s population is currently within the ten percent but adjustments to other districts may change some of the boundaries.

Jesse Oliver, the Chairman of the Redistricting Commission who was appointed by Mayor Eric Johnson in 2021, said a variety of factors result in low participation by the public in local governance issues like redistricting.

“I believe that there exists inherent difficulty in reaching the public on issues as distant and complicated as the redistricting process—something that happens once every ten years,” said Oliver in an email to The Dallas Express.

“I think that given the current pandemic crisis and, the daily flow of false information that the public has been forced to digest over the past few years, especially when that false information has eroded the public image of governmental integrity, it has become extremely difficult to communicate with the general public on issues which they are unfamiliar.”

The Redistricting Commission provides an online mapping tool that residents can use to provide their own opinions on how to redraw the districts to maintain population balance. The tool also includes the rules of redistricting that prevent unfair redistricting that is racially based or based on a predominant language. Currently, the website shows only one publicly-submitted map that has met the criteria.

A full schedule of meetings and locations is available on the Redistricting Commission website, along with an opportunity to register to speak at one of the town hall meetings. 

Note: This article was updated on January 9 at 8:24 p.m. to include comments from Alan Walne and Jesse Oliver.

Support our non-profit journalism

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Continue reading on the app
Expand article