Understanding the history of the debate over whether Fort Worth should form an Independent Redistricting Commission is essential to following the issue as it develops.
New City Council members are about to hear arguments from advocates on both sides of the issue ahead of the census data’s release.
If the new council supports an independent commission, that will profoundly impact the timeline for redistricting in Fort Worth. The previous council voted 8-1 against an independent panel.
Creating an independent redistricting commission is still possible in the time left before the 2023 elections, but, as it stands now, this is the timeline the redistricting process will follow:
The history of watering down the Hispanic vote in Fort Worth goes back decades, according to Peter Martinez, a professor at Tarrant County Community College. A recent example he cited was in District 2, where the district was extended from the Near North Side all the way up to Texas Motor Speedway. Martinez said this change “‘watered down” Mexican power in the district.
“These districts have been drawn up so that it’s hard to maintain a very strong Mexican majority, without having at least an upper middle class and politically active white population mixed in with those groups,” Martinez said.
In 2012, Austin redrew its 10 City Council boundaries using a diverse group of residents rather than city staff or council members. Some advocates in Fort Worth identified that method of redistricting as a way to end the disenfranchisement of Hispanic voters in Fort Worth.
Then, in 2017, Fort Worth Police Officer William Martin was accused of using excessive force against a black mother. In the case’s aftermath, the city created the Race and Culture Task Force, which made recommendations to improve equity in the city.
The task force issued 22 recommendations, including creating an independent redistricting commission.