“Simplistically said, San Antonio’s population growth during the decade is Hispanic, very much Hispanic," said David Mendez, who has been drawing redistricting maps for more than 30 years.
He said San Antonio is straightforward when it comes to redrawing city council district lines, but what was different for the Alamo City during this census round is where the growth was reported, and who was moving there.
“The Hispanics did not stay in the Hispanic parts of town," said Mendez. "They moved to the north," and it’s that shift north that explains San Antonio’s tremendous growth on the north side.
Since Mendez’s job is to follow the Voting Rights Act, he must protect the districts where minority groups are the majority of voters so they can elect candidates of their choice. Although the concentration of minorities has vastly changed, he still had to keep districts strong in their minority representation.
Using race is allowable to accomplish that, “but race cannot be the be-all and end-all of it," said Mendez. "It can be used to the narrow extent of remediating voting rights problems of the past. So I can use race to the minimum extent necessary to avoid retrogressing a district.”
Mendez said the districts haven’t changed much, but some districts absorbed populations from other districts to balance out the numbers. Before redistricting, the maps were out of sync as much as 20 percent.
- District 8 had the most people with 159,578.
- District 5 had the fewest with 106,608.
The revised illustrative map shows a deviation now of nearly 5 percent at most to balance each district with an average population of 132,000.
The City Council will discuss the revised plans and soon consider them for adoption.