Fort Bend County extends redistricting process after activists push for more community input

Initially, Commissioners Court was scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote over proposed precinct maps next week, but the meeting has been pushed back.

Outside the Fort Bend County Courthouse on Aug. 28, 2020.
Lucio Vasquez / Houston Public Media
Outside the Fort Bend County Courthouse on Aug. 28, 2020.

Fort Bend County Judge KP George announced Friday that the county’s redistricting process would be extended after local activists demanded more time to provide community input.

Initially, Commissioners Court was scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote over proposed precinct maps on Oct. 26, but the meeting has been pushed back to at least Nov. 2.

The Texas Organizing Project, along with several community members, have pushed for more time to review already proposed maps and to submit their own for consideration. The deadline for that process was originally on Friday.

“I have received numerous communications from the public about the timeline the Commissioners Court has adopted to receive feedback on proposed maps and to allow the public to submit maps for consideration,” George said in a statement. “The time is now for every resident to make their voice heard.”

Along with proposed maps submitted by the community, commissioners will consider three maps proposed from within the Court, which were publicly unveiled earlier this week.

Brianna Brown, TOP co-executive director, said those maps don’t accurately reflect the diversity of Fort Bend County, and would split apart already established communities.

“The policies that they enact over the next 10 years will have ripple effects for generations,” Brown said. “So what we’re saying is the process needs to be slowed down to get real and authentic feedback and input into the decision making process of how the lines are drawn.”

According to some community members, like Nabila Mansoor with the group Texas Asian American Democrats, the extension will give residents more time to submit maps that are more in line with what the community wants.

“It allows us to do the work we need to do to make sure that we can provide them with maps that we believe are a fair representation of the people that are in our county,” Mansoor said.

Fort Bend County is also contending with redistricting at the state level, as proposed congressional maps threaten to spilt the county into three separate congressional districts.

At the moment, most of the county is represented by U.S. Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Richmond, with a smaller section being held by U.S. Rep. Al Green, D-Houston. If approved by Gov. Greg Abbott, the new congressional maps would split the county once more, with a section of the region going to U.S. Rep. Lizzie Fletcher, D-Houston.

Last week, Judge George penned a letter addressed to the Texas House telling lawmakers that the proposed congressional maps would dilute the county’s voting power by mixing in votes from surrounding rural communities.

“Our residents deserve to choose their politicians, not the other way around,” George wrote. “I ask you today to make good on that principle by ensuring that a congressional district, in its entirety, is located within the already existing borders of Fort Bend County.”

George added that the county’s population growth over the last decade “more than warrants Fort Bend County staying wholly contained within one congressional district,” or at least maintaining its majority share of the district.

As for the county’s precinct maps, Mansoor said that it was important for the maps to be drawn in a way that would maintain representation among people of color.

“We’ll be spending the weekend trying to talk to community members, getting their input, and trying to figure out how we draw these lines in a way that allows us to keep our power,” Mansoor said. “A big part of that is making sure that those maps are fair.”

Additional reporting by Sara Willa Ernst.