Fort Worth District Map Approved, Could Face Challenge

United Hispanic Council says it may challenge map

By Chris Van Horne
|  Tuesday, Jul 24, 2012  |  Updated 6:22 PM CDT
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The Fort Worth city council approved its new district map Tuesday morning but not everyone is happy about the end result, one Hispanic group says it will challenge the new boundaries.

Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 Fort Worth Reporter

The Fort Worth city council approved its new district map Tuesday morning but not everyone is happy about the end result, one Hispanic group says it will challenge the new boundaries.

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The Fort Worth City Council on Tuesday approved new boundaries for its eight council district by an 8-1 vote.

The lone "no" vote belonged to Councilman Sal Espino, who favored a map sponsored by the United Hispanic Council of Tarrant County, which said it may challenge the approved map.

Fernando Florez, UHC redistricting chair, said the group may challenge the legality of the map when the U.S. Department of Justice reviews it in the coming weeks.

Florez and the UHC argued that five voting precincts near Texas Christian University should be removed from District 9 because they dilute the votes of Hispanics, who make up most of the district.

The block of five precincts is predominantly white and makes up most of those who vote in elections, Florez said. He said the UHC wants the opportunity for a Hispanic to be elected and to encourage more Hispanics to vote.

"Until people start seeing their votes meaning something, they're not going to vote," he said after Tuesday's City Council meeting, at which he asked the council to reconsider the map and slow down the process.

Florez said the UHC's lawyers feel the group will have a good case during the Department of Justice's review, during which the map will be examined to make sure it follows the Voting Rights Act.

"The city is headed in the wrong direction on this. They made a big mistake," Florez said. "They did not listen. They put on a good show."

Council members who spoke during Tuesday's meeting and voted in favor of the map said they believe it will pass the pre-clearance hurdle.

"This is a district and a map that will pass our pre-clearance and -- not just by a margin, but because it goes far beyond what is required of us," said Councilman Joel Burns, whose district is at the center of the UHC objection.

Espino said the process was fair and open but believes the UHC has a good case against the city. He said potential legal issues could have been avoided if the council had adopted a 10-1 council model instead of the current 8-1. The city's diversity would show up on the council more if the city added more districts, Espino said.

"As the city has changed, our institutions of government have not, and that's a challenge that we have going forward," Espino said after the meeting.

The city will submit the map in the coming weeks to the Department of Justice and will receive word back as early as 60 days after that.

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