Frequently Asked Questions About the Census and Redistricting

The census, administered by the United States Census Bureau, is designed to determine the population of the U.S. at that date. Article 1, Section 2, of the U.S. Constitution requires that a census of U.S. population be taken every 10 years for the purpose of apportioning the U.S. House of Representatives. U.S. CONST. ART. 1, § 2. The first census was taken in 1790 and since that time the census of population has been taken each year ending in zero.

A tabulation of the total population of the States was completed and delivered to the President of the United States by December 31, 2010. Texas law allows use of census data for redistricting purposes after delivery of the data by the Census Bureau to the Governor. TEXAS GOVERNMENT CODE ANNOTATED § 2058.002(b).

The release of the 2010 census data triggers redistricting obligations for Dallas College to fulfill. In general, redistricting is the process by which the boundaries of elective districts are periodically redrawn to maintain equal representation on the basis of population.

Once the census has been published, population shifts may result in an unequal representation amongst the single-member districts of local political subdivisions such as cities and school districts. If the population of the most populous trustee district exceeds the population of the least populous district by more than 10%, Dallas College will need to redistrict. The district boundaries would need to be adjusted in order to maintain a substantially equal population between single-member districts within the College. Any change in district boundaries of a local political subdivision must be submitted by the political subdivision to the Justice Department for preclearance.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 (“VRA”)

Texas and each political subdivision within the state have been “covered jurisdictions” under Section 5 of the VRA since 1972.

As Covered Jurisdictions, any changes in election practices by the state or any of these political subdivisions must be precleared by the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., before such practices can be used.

Changes in election practices include changes in single-member district lines, as well as many other changes.

In the 1964 case of Reynolds v. Sims, the United States Supreme Court determined that the general basis of apportionment should be "one person, one vote." Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533 (1964). This rule means that, generally, the trustee electoral districts must be equal in population according to the most recent census so that each person's vote is equally weighted.

For political subdivisions other than the U.S. Congress, districts are considered to be in balance and thus meet the one person, one vote requirement if the districts have substantially equal (within 10%) total population.

This means that a political subdivision’s electoral districts would be considered to be in balance under this constitutional requirement if the population the most populous electoral district in the political subdivision did not have more than 10% more persons than the least populous electoral district.

Sections 130.0821-.0822 of the Texas Education Code also set forth requirements when Dallas College redistricts; these requirements are consistent with federal guidelines.

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau is received and processed so it can be used for redistricting. Specialized redistricting geographic information systems are required to process the data to develop plan maps. Demographic thematic maps, electoral history data, voter registration information and other specialized data are utilized to create plans.

The Board of Trustees will develop an illustrative plan and publish it for public comment. Comments may be received by means of written or oral comment at a public hearing.

After the Board of Trustees holds a public hearing on the issues and public comments are received, they will adopt a map that details the new boundaries of each district.

Since the State of Texas is a jurisdiction covered by Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act (the "Act"), any redistricting plan must be submitted to the Justice Department for review prior to taking effect. Section 5 of the Act gives the Justice Department the duty of reviewing any change in any "standard, practice, or procedure with respect to voting" to for preclearance. 28 C.F.R. §§ 51.20-51.28.

The Justice Department has 60 days in which to preclear a submitted change. If the Justice Department requests additional information to assist them in their review of the change, the 60-day clock starts running from the date the additional information is received by the Justice Department. Instead of seeking preclearance through the Justice Department submission process, Dallas College could choose to seek preclearance by filing a lawsuit in the federal court for the District of Columbia. In either case, Texas cannot implement any change subject to Section 5 (e.g., redistricting plans) until the change has been precleared.

The general election cycle for Dallas College requires elections on the uniform election date in May.

The Texas Election Code provides than an election change must be in effect for at least 90 days before it can be used in an election.

As a result, entities with single-member districts that must redistrict in 2011 cannot do so in time to use new districts in the May 2011 election cycle. The general election would be called (and the filing deadline for candidates would occur) at about the time that the census data is expected to be released.

The first election at which any new districts will be effective is May 2012. The redistricting process will be organized so that new electoral districts are precleared prior to the call of the general election (which typically coincides with the filing date for candidates). This is 62 days prior to the election date and occurs in early March of an election year.

The Board of Trustees wants your input on how the district boundaries should be drawn. You may email your representative or appear at the public hearing and give your comments in accordance with the guidelines adopted by Dallas College. Check this site frequently as there will be updates on hearing dates and times, as well as additional information on proposed redistricting plans.