FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The Fort Worth City Council has approved a council-redistricting plan, but the vote was not unanimous.
The approved plan keeps the same number of districts, but redraws one to include a growing Hispanic community on the north side. Critics argue the city completely ignored the booming Hispanic population in the southern and central portions of Fort Worth.
Councilmember Sal Espino was the lone dissenting vote. He claims the plan dilutes the votes of Hispanics.
“We have a respectful, legitimate disagreement on whether the city staff redistricting plan is the best we can do, I would respectfully say no. But obviously with democracy we abide by the vote of this council,” he said during Tuesday’s city council meeting.
Some Hispanic voters claim they’ve been disenfranchised by the plan that denies them fuller representation.
Espino went on to say that he didn’t believe the staff-redistricting plan is the best that can be done.
“I believe that the United Hispanic Council Map is still better in terms of compactness, continuity, communities of interest and compliance with the principals as articulated by the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as well as the 14th and 15th amendment of our U.S. Constitution,” he said.
Fernando Florez with the United Hispanic Council opposed the plan vehemently and claims it protects politicians while making it difficult for a Hispanic candidate to win, by leaving an influential pocket of predominantly white voters in the central voting district.
“Because of the polarized voting… white people vote for whites, Hispanics vote for Hispanics, basically. And there’s enough of that that it will have an impact,” Florez said. “We say here’s the problem, ‘if you in fact adopt this plan you’re doing it intentionally.’ That’s what they’ve done. They’ve done it intentionally for incumbent protection.”
Before leaving city council Florez indicated his organization might file a lawsuit over the new plan.
“Unfortunately, because of the decision they made today this is going to have go into court,” he said.
Meanwhile, Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price told the council that the plan has been study, revised and the subject of numerous public hearings.
“We’ve had lots of input and every time we’ve had maps presented from groups we’ve made some small tweaks. We obviously can’t make everybody happy,” she said.
Claiming Hispanics are discouraged by the system, Florez said, “They’re votes mean nothing. They feel like, ‘why should we vote? Our votes don’t matter.’ Ya know what, they’re right. Their votes don’t matter. They don’t count.”
Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns voted for the plan and predicts it will get approval from the U.S. Justice Department.
“I think it will go through the Justice Department with flying colors because we’ve done our work. We’ve done the hard work of making sure that this is a district and a map that will pass our pre-clearance,” he said.
U.S. Justice Department approval of the new redistricting plan is required before it can be implemented.