The Wharton County Commissioners Court approved new redistricting maps for the first time in 20 years after a public hearing this week.
The court approved the new precinct maps after asking for public comment from Wharton County Citizens. No one spoke during the public comment portion of the hearing, and the precinct maps were approved 5-0 on Wednesday.
A county is only required to change its precinct maps if the largest one is 10 percent bigger than the smallest. After the 2010 census, the difference between the largest (Precinct 1) and the smallest (Precinct 2) was just under 7 percent. The county did not have to redistrict after the 2010 census.
“Each precinct should be more or less the same population, but that is hard to do,” Wharton County Judge Phillip Spenrath said. “Luckily, there is a rule that allows us to stay within the law and work with the population we have in the county.”
The 2020 census reported 41,575 people in Wharton County. If that were split between the four commissioners, then each precinct would have 10,393 people.
Numbers before redistricting are Precinct 1 - 10,956, Precinct 2 - 9,695, Precinct 3- 10,900 and Precinct 4- 10,765.
The difference between the smallest and largest district was 12.2 percent, causing the county to reshape its map this month.
On Nov. 2, the commissioners court met to reshape the precincts with the help of the Allison, Bass & Magee law firm.
“We didn’t really go in and try to change a bunch of things, so we tried to focus on the main streets of El Campo and Wharton,” Spenrath said. “We won’t see any major changes in money coming in or out, but we will have a good balance between our precincts.”
The court focused on Mechanic, and West Norris St. in El Campo and Milam in Wharton. They approved the new maps three days before the deadline.
Precinct numbers after redistricting are Precinct 1 -10,396, Precinct 2 - 10,464, Precinct 3 - 10,424 and Precinct 4 - 10,283.
Precinct 2 moved from being the smallest to the largest, and the difference between them now is 1.77 percent, well below the 10 percent threshold required by law.
The next step is to break each precinct into sub-voting blocks to determine where people will vote on election day.
“We will work on getting a framework of these sub precincts together before the Dec. 31 deadline,” Spenrath said. “Things may change for regular voting days, but early voting sites should stay the same.”