|To:||County Judges, County Clerks, Tax Assessor-Collectors, Voter Registrars, and Election Administrators|
|From:||Ann McGeehan, Director of Elections|
|Date:||May 31, 2011|
|RE:||Impact of Redistricting on County Election Precincts|
After every decennial census, the Texas Legislature must review and redistrict, if necessary, the district lines for Congress, State House, State Senate, and the State Board of Education. This advisory will discuss the statutory requirements for adjusting the county election precincts, if required, as a result of redistricting.
Pursuant to Section 42.005 of the Texas Election Code (the “Code”), each county election precinct may not contain territory from more than one of each of the following type of territorial units:
- a commissioners precinct;
- a justice precinct;
- a congressional district;
- a state representative district;
- a state senatorial district;
- a ward within a city with a population of 10,000 or more; or
- a State Board of Education district.
Section 42.006 of the Code provides for the population requirements for a county election precinct. The general rule is that a county election precinct must contain at least 100 but not more than 5,000 registered voters. If a county has a population of less than 100,000, then the minimum number of registered voters in a precinct is 50, and if a county has a population of less than 50,000, then the minimum number of registered voters may be less than 50 if the commissioners court receives a petition requesting it, signed by at least 25 registered voters of the county.
Section 42.007 provides the general rule that a county election precinct may not contain territory inside a city with a population of 10,000 or more and unincorporated territory outside that city, but allows for an exemption. The exemption applies if the commissioners court determines that either of the two areas (1) cannot constitute a separate election precinct of suitable size that contains the permissible number of voters; or (2) cannot be combined with other territory on the same side of the city boundary to form a precinct of suitable size with the permissible number of registered voters without causing another precinct to fail to meet those requirements.
Generally, the county commissioners court is required to review the county election precinct boundaries for compliance with the above requirements in March or April of each odd-numbered year. However, Section 42.032 provides that if county election precinct boundary changes are necessary to give effect to a redistricting plan, then the commissioners court shall order the changes before October 1st of the year in which the redistricting is done.
After the commissioners court approves new or revised county election precinct boundaries, Section 42.034 of the Code requires that the court must deliver a certified copy of an order changing the boundaries to the voter registrar not later than the seventh day after the date the order is adopted.
Depending on the county population, different public notice requirements apply. Section 42.035 states the general rule which requires that beginning with the first week following the week in which an order changing county election precinct boundaries is adopted, the commissioners court must publish notice of the change in a newspaper in the county once a week for three consecutive weeks. If no newspaper is published in the county, then the commissioners court shall post the notice at the county courthouse on the bulletin board used for posting notices of the commissioners court. The notice must remain posted for three consecutive weeks. The county clerk must deliver a copy of the notice to the secretary of state not later than the 20th day after the date the order is adopted.
In counties with a population of one million or more, additional notice requirements are mandated by Section 42.036 of the Code. The commissioners court must deliver written notice of each proposed county election precinct boundary change and each adopted boundary change to: (1) the county chair of each political party that held a primary election; (2) the precinct chair of each affected county election precinct; and (3) the presiding judge appointed by the commissioners court for each affected precinct. In addition, the notice of proposed boundary change must be delivered not later than the seventh day before the date that the commissioners court will be considered, and notice of the adoption of the change must be delivered by the seventh day after the adoption. Section 42.037 requires that all counties must file a map of the precinct boundary changes with the secretary of state not later than the 120th day after the order changing the county election precinct boundaries are adopted.
The Secretary of State’s Office has scheduled a new TEAM release for May 31st that will support the upcoming redistricting effort. The new release offers expanded functionality in the Street Index and additional reports to track the changes made. Additional information about the new TEAM release may be found in Election Advisory 2011-04.
Lastly, a change to county election precincts boundaries is a change that is subject to preclearance under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. We hope you find this overview helpful, and please do not hesitate to contact the Elections Division at 1-800-252-2216 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.