El Paso Metro
The City and County of El Paso are shifting their District boundaries to accommodate the growth of the area and equalize the number of voters residing within them. The final precinct boundaries will not be completely defined and recorded until January 2002 according to Javier Chacon of the County Elections Department. “We are still working on the dividing lines within some precincts,” he said.
The new precinct boundaries have forced the re-numbering of the precincts as well. Voters will have to get used to new precinct numbers as, for example, precinct 88 has now been split into precincts 129 and 130. Voters who live southeast of Carolina Drive will vote in precinct 129 and those that live northeast of North Loop Drive will vote in 130. Some confusion is expected until voters get used to the new precinct numbers and voting stations. Fortunately, this process occurs only “once every ten years to accommodate the results of the census,” added Chacon.
The new Districts for the City Council and the County Commissioner’s are fairly complete and are expected to be finalized over the next few weeks. For the most part, elected officials feel that the new boundaries are satisfactory to them and their political goals.
Importantly, one of the proposed City plans would create a stand-alone south of I-10 District. Some feel that this will empower residents in the Riverside-Ysleta area and give them a District representative that will be wholly accountable to them. Others, however, feel that a District that contains precincts north and south of the freeway create a dialogue between the needs of various economic classes and maintains an expanded cross-cultural participation.
The shifts in boundaries have created some interesting consequences. Larry Medina will take in a portion of Luis Sariñana’s constituency and that should have a measurable electoral consequence. Anthony Cobos will take in a portion of Jan Sumrall’s constituency and that too should have a measurable impact. Carlos Aguilar has increased the number of precincts in his District. To his advantage, the majority of his precincts fall within the center of gravity of Democratic voting according to results of a study released last week by Spectrume.
Taken together, the City and County precinct maps forecast problems for the current city administration because the shift and weakens its institutional supporters and, therefore, strengthens its political opposition.