Tag Archive for: Ellis Plan

Redistricting Lawsuit Dismissed by Ellis-Backed Judge

A lawsuit by Harris County Precinct 3 Commissioner Tom Ramsey, Precinct 4 Commissioner Jack Cagle and their supporters that sought to overturn a redistricting plan devised by Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis has been dismissed by an Ellis-backed judge, Dedra Davis.

How Ellis-3 Redistricting plan affects Lake Houston Area
In the Ellis-3 Redistricting plan, almost all of the Lake Houston Area including Kingwood, Humble, Atascocita, Huffman and Crosby will change from Precinct 4 to Precinct 3. Tom Ramsey will remain the Commissioner of Precinct 3, and will not be up for re-election in 2022.

Details of Redistricting Plan

The Ellis redistricting plan swapped the numbers of Precincts 3 and 4. It also redrew the boundaries of Precincts 3 and 4 so that Ramsey’s home and Cagle’s home changed precincts. The Ellis plan has two immediate effects.

  • It forces Cagle and Ramsey, both Republicans, to run in each others’ precincts because commissioners must live in the precincts they represent.
  • The number swap will deny voters in the new precinct 3 the right to vote for commissioner in the next election. That’s because only even-numbered precincts will vote in the next election cycle for commissioners. So the Lake Houston Area will not be able to vote for commissioners next year as it normally would have.

In addition, the plan redraws boundaries of the new Precinct 4 so that it becomes more Democratic. That jeopardizes Cagle’s chances of re-election and could shift the balance of power in Commissioners Court. Four Democrats could create a super-majority, enabling them to raise taxes at will.

A supermajority could also have far reaching consequences for flood mitigation by enabling Democrats to shift funds between watersheds as Adrian Garcia already tried to do.

TRO Denied, Then Lawsuit Dismissed on Plea to Jurisdiction

The plaintiffs sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) to block preparations for redistricting until the lawsuit could be resolved.

Judge Brittanye Morris (acting as an ancillary judge for Davis) denied the TRO on November 29 without explanation.

Hidalgo then filed a Plea to the Jurisdiction on December 13. In it, she pled that:

  • Plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the claims
  • She enjoyed sovereign (governmental) immunity
  • Plaintiffs did not plead a constitutionally valid claim
  • She was acting within her powers.

Yesterday, December 22, 2021, Judge Dedra Davis of the 270th District Court upheld Hidalgo’s plea to the jurisdiction and dismissed the lawsuit.

Judge Davis, who was supported in her election bid by Rodney Ellis, a key player in this drama, did not recuse herself. Nor did she cite any reasons for dismissing the case in her terse ruling.

Rodney Ellis and Judge Dedra Davis
Rodney Ellis and Judge Dedra Davis during her election bid.

Stage Set for Appeal

A spokesperson for Commissioner Jack Cagle’s office responded that the plaintiffs intend to file an appeal. However, because of the holidays, no other details were immediately available.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 12/23/2021

1577 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Democrats Approve Modified Ellis Redistricting Plan Along Party Lines

In a straight party-line vote, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis and and Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia approved a modified version of a plan presented weeks ago by Ellis. It contained an even bigger surprise than in Ellis’ original plan. And it takes gerrymandering to a whole new personal level that really strikes home.

The Old Switcheroo

The plan approved on 10/28/2021 creates two safe, predominantly Democratic precincts for Ellis and Garcia while forcing Republicans Cagle and Ramsey to run in each other’s precincts where they are relatively unknown. That will mean Republicans will have to raise and spend more money to compensate for low awareness.

Ellis’ modified plan was posted just hours before today’s special meeting on redistricting. So the public did not really have a chance to review and discuss it. However, that didn’t stop Ellis from bragging about how open and transparent the redistricting process has been.

Clever Gerrymandering of Commissioners’ Homes

County law specifies that precinct commissioners must live in the precincts they represent. Currently Ramsey lives in and represents Precinct 3; Cagle lives in and represents Precinct 4. So Ellis carefully gerrymandered the boundaries of the new Precinct 3 to include Cagle’s home and the new Precinct 4 to include Ramsey’s.

That means both Republicans would have to move their homes in order to represent their current districts.

Hidalgo Calls It Payback for Not Raising Taxes

Judge Lina Hidalgo supported the last minute entry in the redistricting sweepstakes. When Cagle questioned why, she said it was payback for Republican’s walking out and blocking a tax increase earlier this year. A tax increase must be approved by a 4-1 supermajority. So when Cagle and Ramsey walked out of the meeting, Democrats did not have the votes they needed.

The map below will now define the new precinct boundaries. The other major change: Garcia’s Precinct 2 loses the heavily Republican far northeast portion of the county. That will shore up his re-election chances. Last time, he won by just 2,000 votes and his seat was widely regarded as the most vulnerable in this election, given the old precinct boundaries.

The redistricting map adopted today by Harris County. Lines represent old boundaries. Colors represent new boundaries. Ellis switched the numbers 3 and 4.

What This Will Mean

Unless Republicans can win both Precincts 3 and 4, Democrats will have a supermajority after the next election. That would basically give Democrats the power to raise taxes at will. It would also let them override the will of voters. For instance, they could shift flood-bond money between watersheds and cancel flood-bond projects, as they tried to do last Tuesday.

Cities and counties without healthy checks and balances can devolve into blatant political corruption. The next election could determine the tenor of politics in Harris County for decades to come.

The next Harris County election will be the primary in May.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/28/2021

1521 Days after Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

Harris County Commissioners Will Hold Special Meeting on Redistricting Thursday

There are political changes afoot that could radically affect county services including flood-mitigation, just as the equity prioritization framework did. Perhaps the most important meeting of Harris County Commissioners Court in a decade will take place during rush hour on Thursday afternoon when few people can watch. With only three days of public notice, commissioners will consider redistricting proposals, including one by Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis dubbed the “Ellis Plan.” The changes could be profound, long-lasting and far-reaching.

The Ellis Plan being put forward by Democrats would massively shift precinct boundaries to create another Democratic precinct. Democrats now hold a 3-2 majority on Commissioners Court. That means Ellis’ plan will likely be adopted and create a 4-1 majority.

The plan could also herald massive shifts in county spending, including infrastructure, flood control, community services and more.

Inner city neighborhoods would likely benefit at the expense of outlying unincorporated areas that make up the county’s primary service area. Municipalities, such as the City of Houston are supposed to take care of their own infrastructure and services.

Changes Recommended by Ellis and Democrats

Ellis’ Plan would increase the Democratic majority on Commissioners Court. Democratic Precinct 2 Commissioner Adrian Garcia barely won a hotly contested election last time by only 4,000 votes and is up for re-election next year. Republicans considered his seat the most vulnerable to recapture.

But Precinct 1 Commissioner Rodney Ellis who won election by a wide margin last time appears to be “giving” part of his surplus to Garcia to shore up Garcia’s re-election chances.

The Ellis Plan also shrinks Republican Tom Ramsey’s Precinct 3 to leave him largely with Democratic voters. The rest of Ramsey’s precinct would go to Republican Jack Cagle’s Precinct 4, which would approximately double in size – and go deeper red – but leave Republicans with one less seat on Commissioners Court.

Thus, even if Judge Lina Hidalgo loses her next election, Democrats would still likely command a majority of Commissioners Court.

This is “packing and cracking” in practice – two time-tested gerrymandering techniques designed to amplify partisan advantage.

Current and Proposed Maps

Here is the current map.

Current precinct boundaries

Below is Ellis’ proposed map.

Black lines show existing precinct boundaries; colors show proposed boundaries. Only commissioners get to vote on the plan, not ordinary citizens.

Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, if you live in the Precinct 4 that Ellis has redrawn, you will be penalized. Developers and homebuilders in outlying areas will also suffer.

That’s because earlier this year, Commissioners Court voted unanimously to distribute Road and Bridge funds equally to each precinct. But if Precinct 4 virtually doubles in geographic size – as it apparently will – that leaves Commissioner Cagle with half the dollars per square mile…in the fastest developing parts of the county.

Cutting Humble in Half

The Ellis Plan would also cut the City of Humble in half. That would make it harder for Humble to coordinate its drainage efforts with the county because Humble would have to work with two county commissioners, not just one. It would also give Cagle responsibility for the flood-prone areas near the San Jacinto River while Ellis would take areas on higher ground that need fewer drainage dollars.

Reaction by Garcia Challenger

John Manlove, former mayor of Pasadena, who has already announced a run against Garcia in Precinct 2, believes that the proposed redistricting loses sight of the county’s core mission – to provide services and infrastructure in unincorporated areas.

Said Manlove, “Under the proposed redistricting plan, Commissioner Cagle’s equal share of the Road and Bridge Fund would have to cover twice as much territory. Cagle’s constituents would, in essence, be underfunded, while those in other precincts would be overfunded relative to Precinct 4.”

It is not yet clear whether the Ellis plan meets constitutional requirements. Nor is it clear whether any of the plans under consideration would survive a legal challenge. Detail in the published maps is insufficient to tell. Nor does the surprise meeting give the public sufficient time to absorb and analyze impacts of the proposed changes.

For More Information

To learn more about the redistricting plans and process, visit the Harris County Attorney’s website.

To review census and voting data compiled for Harris County Commissioner’s Court, click here.

To Attend/View Meeting or Make Public Comment

Members of the public may attend, participate and/or address Commissioners Court in-person or online.

Those who attend the meeting in-person may make comments by signing up to speak in the Commissioners Courtroom before 4 p.m. on Thursday, October 21, 2021, when the meeting begins.

Those who attend virtually may comment by signing up to speak no later than 2:00 p.m. on Thursday, October 21, 2021, at https://appearancerequest.harriscountytx.gov/.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 10/18/2021

1511 Days since Hurricane Harvey