New Denton County voting precincts and a commissioner precinct boundary change will take effect in the coming months.
This week, county commissioners unanimously approved the creation of 21 voter precincts and modified a commissioner precinct boundary that soon will make voting precinct 2035 in Frisco, which is currently part of Precinct 2 — an area covering county's southeast region, including portions of Carrollton and The Colony that's represented by Ron Marchant — an addition to the Precinct 1 region, which covers most of north and east Denton County and is represented by Hugh Coleman.
The commissioner precinct boundary change is expected to take effect July 1, while the 21 new voting precincts are effective Jan. 1.
Phillips requested a July 1 effective date for the commissioner precinct boundary change so the county elections administration could get through the May 6 local elections and any potential runoff elections, and the change would be made before November elections. Although some residents currently vote in Frisco, Phillips said their neighbors are traveling outside city limits to cast ballots. Commissioners have the authority to make the effective date for the commissioner precinct boundary whenever they want and don't have to wait until the first day of the following year, Phillips said.
"Back after the 2010 [U.S.] Census and we redistricted our commissioner precincts, we followed the city limits of Frisco," he said. "Since then, Frisco has incorporated a small area, and they've built out some houses.
"What that does is it has the citizens that are currently in [voting precinct] 1036 go vote in Frisco, and the other precinct , they have to go up to Little Elm. So the city of Frisco has been requesting for some time that that small portion be redistricted."
Commissioners can order voter precinct changes in March or April of an odd-numbered year, and if approved, the changes take effect the first day of the following year, according to the Texas Election Code. This year, 18 precincts were recommended to be split.
Prior to bringing recommendations to commissioners Tuesday, Phillips said he met with the chairmen of the county Democratic and Republican parties to discuss potential changes, and they were in "unanimous agreement" of the recommendations. He said although the elections office is under no obligation to contact any political parties, the two party chairmen were invited because they appoint the county's election judges and alternate judges. According to state election code, county election judges are appointed by the chairmen of the political parties that receive the highest and second highest votes for governor in the county during the most recent gubernatorial election.
It's possible officials with other political parties will be invited to future precinct talks, he said.
James Felber, Denton County Libertarian Party chair, said he contacted the elections administration after reading about the recommended voter precinct changes earlier this week to inquire why the party wasn't invited to participate in precinct discussions.
In a Facebook response this week, Felber wrote that as chairman of the third largest political party in the county, he would have liked if county elections administration officials asked for his input.
"Just because our party is not a primary party doesn't mean we are unaffected by precinct boundary changes," he wrote. "I am not opposed to the changes, but there are more than just Democrats and Republicans in Denton County."
According to Phillips, the new voter precinct changes will keep cities and communities together and reduce the distance some voters travel to cast ballots.
Nine voter precincts in excess of 5,000 active voters — 1004, 1029, 1032, 2017, 2028, 4003, 4007, 4032 and 4034 — and nine additional precincts with active voter populations topping 4,000 and include developments that could swell the number of active voters to 5,000 or more — 1007, 1017, 1025, 1031, 1036, 3030, 4018, 4033 and 4036 — are being split. County voter precincts must have no more than 5,000 registered voters, according to Texas statute.
As of Jan. 1, the county's voter precincts will increase from 158 to 179. Of the voter precincts that were split, many are on the U.S. Highway 380 Corridor where developments have seen substantial increases in the population.
"Out of 21 voting precincts that we had to split because they were over and making 5,000 [active voters], 12 were in Precinct 1," Coleman said. "That's indicative of almost 60,000 people that have been added. And if you remember in 2010, I was already on the high side, and we barely made under the 10 percent plus or minus.
"I'm going to plan to help try to do some redistricting, but we're not going to do it immediately. It needs to be done just because you need to be in the paradigms of the Department of Justice rules of no more than a 10 percent plus or minus, but I think any type of redistricting like that needs to be done by a committee and thought through. All this is is a cleanup that everybody who lives in that retirement community votes in the same place. "
BRITNEY TABOR can be reached at 940-566-6876.