This story has been corrected to reflect Shannon Joski's job title as court administrator.
In a testy exchange Tuesday morning, Denton County Democrats showed up to commissioners court to ask the Republican-held court: Why is now the time to redistrict their commissioner precincts ahead of a major election in 2020? Why not wait until after the 2020 U.S. census?
The plan — first brought to the attention of the public in late April — is for the county to redraw its commissioner precincts so, Republican officials and election administrators say, the county’s growing population will be more evenly represented by each of the four commissioners.
The county wants this to be all figured out by August, well ahead of the 2020 general election.
Prominent Democrats, including the county party’s chairwoman, Angie Cadena, urged the court to pump the brakes on that plan and wait until after the 2020 census produces a more reliable snapshot of the county’s population. And they said this all could be a silent effort to win Republicans reelection.
“All of a sudden before the election, or a little before the election, it becomes a crisis,” Democrat Alfredo Sanchez said. “To me, this is one example of politicians wanting to keep their job and justifying it.”
The Republicans, however, rejected that notion. Commissioner Hugh Coleman said it was his idea to push for the redistricting. His Precinct 1 has too many residents in it, while Commissioner Bobbie Mitchell’s Precinct 3 has too few. They want to change the precinct boundaries to smooth out those discrepancies.
“There is no conspiracy or anything like that,” Coleman said.
Cadena said the court ought to wait until the census data can give a stronger projection for how the county will grow.
“We are very concerned about this,” Cadena said. “Not because you’re not allowed to do it; we know you’re allowed. But because we want to wait until there’s real data.”
Denton County Elections Administrator Frank Phillips used forward-looking data from four sources to estimate the county’s population moving beyond 2020. Those sources are the American Community Survey, the United Nations, Census Quick Facts and Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s LandScan data.
Cadena also urged that a committee, which will be designated by the court to guide the county on where to reset its boundaries, should be free of both Republican and Democratic officials.
Starting last week, county officials said, letters were sent to groups asking for participation in the committee. Those groups include both the Denton County Democratic and Republican parties. Feedback also is sought from the NAACP, League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the Greater Dallas Asian Chamber of Commerce.
“The process is not completed,” County Judge Andy Eads said. “We are beginning the process.”
DCTA board alternate chosen
In a closed-door executive session, county commissioners chose Shannon Joski, the court administrator and Eads' former chief of staff, as an alternate on the Denton County Transportation Authority board.
Joski will fill in for the county’s two at-large positions on the DCTA board anytime she is needed.