Little Elm is considering some shifts in its voting boundaries to address the town’s continued growth.
The town charter requires the town reevaluate the district lines every four years.
“The primary issue that we are looking at is the constitutional one person, one vote rule,” said Gunnar Seaquist with Bickerstaff Heath Delgado Acosta, LLP, the firm hired to explore boundary solutions. “The premise is that the districts should, as much as possible, be substantially equal in overall population so that one group’s vote isn’t de-valued over another based on population differences.”
Seaquist said the current districts are based on the 2010 census data.
“We have an issue where … the town has seen substantial growth since those numbers were collected back in the 2010 census,” Seaquist said. “So one of the things we have looked at is how can we estimate the population changes that have taken place so we have an accurate estimate of what the district populations are today as opposed to this data, which is old and outdated.”
Seaquist said the 2010 population in Little Elm was 26,478 people. Seaquist said the ideal number of people per district would have been 6,400 to 6,500.
He said it’s estimated the town’s population today is approximately 48,566.
“If you’re going to go through population changes that are that substantial, you’re going to have districts that are out of balance,” Seaquist said.
Seaquist said the ideal size for the projected total population is 12,015 per district.
That means District 5 is approximately 5,462 above the ideal size. District 3 is approximately 3,153 people below the ideal number. Districts 2 (1,080) and 4 (723) are also below the ideal size.
Town Manager Matt Mueller said the Union Park and Valencia developments, both in District 5, are two areas that are expected to see continued growth with 3,000 and 1,200 people, respectively, projected to live there.
“What’s happening in the north is the biggest change we have to address,” Mueller said. “So District 5 either needs to give that (growth) to another district or there’s going to be a change in the representation down south of District 5 because District 5 is the one that’s significantly underrepresented right now at about 45 percent.”
The council is made up of Tony Singh, who represents District 2, Neil Blais (District 3), Lisa Norman (District 4) and Nick Musteen (District 5). Curtis Cornelious and Stephanie Shoemaker are at-large council members.
Two options have been presented to the council to consider. Option 1 calls for District 5 serving the eastern part of the town with District 2 covering the north part.
Option 2 would have District 5 serving the north and reducing its east side representation, with District 2 taking that on.
Town Manager Matt Mueller said the council is leaning toward Option 2, with some possible adjustments to Districts 3 and 4.
Seaquist said where possible the firm will use easily identifiable geographic boundaries during the redistricting.
He said other considerations will be not splitting voting precincts when possible, allowing the districts to be relatively equal in total population based on the 2010 census and the deviation not exceeding 10 percent.
Seaquist said the firm will also consider incumbents so they aren’t drawn out of their district. He said it will be important to avoid fragmenting any geographically compact minority community or packing minority voters, though he said Little Elm has a balanced population.
The council is expected to vote on a plan in October.
The May 2020 election will feature two at-large seats, and the May 2021 election will be for two single-member districts and the mayor’s seat.