A shifting population inside the city limits means Devine’s voting districts are currently unconstitutional and must be realigned prior to the next municipal election in May 2022.
San Antonio-based attorney Rolando Rios, who specializes in voting rights and redistricting law, explained during the September 21 Devine City Council meeting that under the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution, the city’s five voting districts must be fashioned in such a way as to not exceed a 10 percent deviation between districts.
According to 2020 census data, Devine’s current deviation percentage is over 40 percent.
That data, which was collected from April 2020 to October 2020, shows a slight drop in Devine’s total population – to 4,324 from 2010’s high of 4,350 – as well as population changes within voting districts.
Currently, District 3 has the highest population at 1,025, followed by District 5 at 939, District 1 at 922, District 4 at 787, and District 2 at 651.
Rios explained how voting districts that are legally viable are calculated.
“You add the population, which is 4,324, divide by five, and your ideal is 865,” Rios said. “You get your high population, which is 1,025 [and] subtract the lowest, which is 651, and the difference is 374.
“You divide that number by the ideal, you get a 43 percent deviation. Under the law you can’t have more than 10 percent. So the presently existing districts are in violation of the Constitution.”
Changes proposed by Rios would decrease the size of District 3 and District 4 and result in a projected deviation of just over four percent. If Council approves Rios’s plan, District 1 will have the highest population at 880, followed by District 4 with 877, District 3 with 873, District 5 with 849, and District 2 with 845.
A Public Hearing on the redistricting plan will be held before Council votes on whether to adopt it as presented.
A motion by District 5 Councilwoman Debbie Randall and District 2 Councilwoman Angela Pichardo to accept Rios’s findings passed unanimously with support from District 1 Councilman Rufino “Flipper” Vega, District 3 Councilman David Espinosa, and District 4 Councilwoman Kathy Lawler.
By Marly Davis