February 21, 2011
by Meagan O'Toole-Pitts, The Jacksonvill Daily Progress
JACKSONVILLE — Texas now has a population of 25,145,561, up almost 5 million from 10 years ago, according to 2010 U.S. Census data released last week.
The state’s congressional districts, Senate districts, and House districts will realign district borders to accommodate the population influx in May, said House District 11 Representative Chuck Hopson, who now represents Cherokee, Rusk, Panola and Houston counties.
“In East Texas, our population has grown at a much slower rate than a lot of other places in the state. I’m currently representing about 145,000 people and the new ideal district population is 167,637,” Hopson said. “I’m short 15,934.”
The increased population of Texas has triggered a need to redistrict in order to ensure that each district has the same population. Each of the 150 House districts must have a population of 167,637. Each of the 31 Senate districts must have a population of 811,147. Each of the 36 congressional districts must have a population of 698,488. Each of the 15 State Board of Education districts must have a population of 1,676,371.
Since the population of House District 11 is over the ideal population by nearly 16,000 people, the borders of the district will have to be redrawn, shifting the counties that will be a part of House District 11 for the next decade.
“Almost every district will change, all 150 of us,” Hopson said. “Another thing that changes, in the congress amount, is that we’ve had 32 congressmen in Texas for 10 years. With our rapid growth, we’ve picking up four new congressmen. Starting at this next election, the state of Texas will have 36 people representing Texas.”
Nearly all of the House districts in East Texas are below the ideal population, Hopson said.
“Wayne Christian is over in House District 9, which is Nacogdoches, Shelby, St. Augustine, Sabine, Jasper — immediately to the right of Cherokee County — that district is 22,000 short. The district, Bryan Hughes, immediately above me, District 5, is 9,000 short. Lavender, which is up in Texarkana, is 21,000 short. Cain immediately next to him is 21,000 short. Phillips next to him is 13,000 short,” Hopson said. “Leo Burman in Tyler is the only person (with over) he has an excess of 2,500 people in Tyler because Tyler’s had a really good growth. But from Texarkana all the way down to Galveston, all those districts are short.”
The majority of House districts in East Texas falling short may be attributed to the fact that most of Texas’ growth has happened elsewhere, Hopson said.
“About 50 percent of the entire state lives up and down the I-35 corridor. So that’s from the Red River in Oklahoma down to Laredo, which has got Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco, Austin, San Antonio,” he said. “Twenty-five percent of the people in the state live in Houston. Another twenty-five percent of the people live elsewhere in the state.”
The population of Congressional District 5 exceeds the ideal population by 27,154 people.
“While modest changes must be made to the district boundaries due to population shifts, it is my hope that the district will change very little,” said Congressman Jeb Hensarling.
The population of Senate District 3 exceeds the ideal population by 7,212 people. Senate District 3 boundaries may undergo only small changes, said Senator Robert Nichols.
“Our neighbors, some came out short and some came out ahead, so they have to adjust and even though we came out pretty close to right on the number, it’s like bumper cars as they start moving the districts around and so a little wiggle in the Dallas area can make a rumbling in East Texas,” Nichols said. “But I do not anticipate any major changes in Senate District 3.”
The population of State Board of Education District 9, which covers 29 counties in East and Central Texas, is 80,000 short of the ideal population, said Thomas Ratliff, District 9 board member.
Redistricting is expected to take place this May, said Hopson. If there is a special session, it will take longer. To view changes, visit www.tlc.state.tx.us/redist/redist.htm.