- The Washington Times - Monday, December 1, 2003

SONORA (AP) — Redistricting seemed an issue for the big cities to folks in this hamlet on the western edge of the Texas Hill Country.

That was until state lawmakers divided Sutton County between two U.S. congressmen, splitting a place where natural gas fuels the economy and where hunters fill the main drag each autumn.

“With just 3,000 people here, it’s just absurd,” said John Tedford, the county’s Republican Party chairman. “We haven’t been considered at all.”

Mr. Tedford says he is considering leaving his party post after 40 years rather than take on the responsibilities of working in two districts.

County elections officials also are frustrated, saying the changes likely will cost them thousands of dollars for which they didn’t expect to have to budget.

The Legislature spent much of the year arguing over redistricting, with Democrat lawmakers fleeing the state twice to block a vote. It took three special sessions, the last in October, to approve the map, which splits many counties and runs one district boundary right down the middle of Sonora.

The plan still must have the approval of the U.S. Justice Department, and it faces court challenges that are expected to go before a federal judge Dec. 11.

Running the line through Sonora was an unavoidable consequence of federal rules, said Republican state Sen. Todd Staples.

Districts must be divided evenly based on each U.S. census, meaning each of Texas’ congressional districts must contain 651,619 residents.

“Realistically, it could have been one of a hundred different towns where the boundary eventually stopped,” Mr. Staples said. The split was probably drawn “in the wee hours of the morning, as we analyzed the map.”

For Sutton County officials, though, that change is going to mean more spending before the March 9 primary — provided the new map is approved.

The wait means counties with boundary changes likely will be left scrambling to meet an array of election filing and ballot deadlines once the new map receives final approval. They will need time to print ballots, mail new voter registration cards and alert voters of new polling places.

“Once you add in everything, we’re looking at least $5,000,” said Sutton County Judge Carla Garner, a Democrat. “That’s a considerable amount we didn’t budget for.”

“It’s absolutely ridiculous,” Judge Garner said. “They split our votes, and we don’t have that many to begin with. I don’t understand why they did it. It can’t make any difference to either district that we’re in.”

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