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Agua SUD approves redistricting plan

The Agua Special Utility District approved a redistricting plan Monday that didn’t make any major changes to the existing districts.

During a meeting on Monday afternoon, the Agua SUD board approved a redistricting plan drafted by attorney Rolando L. Rios of San Antonio.

“Once every 10 years, pursuant to the latest census, every governmental entity that elects representatives on the basis of single-member districts has to analyze their current districts,” Rios said, and make adjustments if the population difference between the districts exceeds 10%.

Agua SUD, which is governed by a seven-member board of directors, knows the importance of equal representation.

When the Texas Legislature created Agua SUD, each director represented either city or rural customers.

Residents of Sullivan City, Peñitas, Palmview and Mission elected directors to represent them. Rural customers elected the remaining three directors.

That system allowed directors who represented city customers to control the board, even though the majority of Agua SUD customers lived in rural areas.

It also left Mission, where Agua SUD had fewer than 300 registered voters, with the same representation as Sullivan City, where Agua SUD had more than 1,900 registered voters.


Agua SUD created seven single-member districts in 2019. (Map courtesy of Agua SUD.)


Lawmakers made the problem worse in 2017 by replacing a director who represented rural customers with a director who represented La Joya. They addressed the situation in 2019 by switching Agua SUD to single-member districts.

“Agua SUD will continue to be governed by a board of seven elected directors, but each seat will represent an equal amount of district residents in compliance with all the requirements of the Election Code,” according to a bill analysis prepared by the Texas Senate Research Center.

To comply with the law, Agua SUD adopted single-member districts in December 2019.

The board created two districts, District 1 and District 5, which are anchored by Palmview. It also created District 4, which is anchored by Peñitas; District 6, which is anchored by La Joya; and District 7, which is anchored by Sullivan City. The two remaining districts, District 2 and District 3, are anchored by rural parts of western Hidalgo County.

After the 2020 census was completed, Agua SUD hired Rios to review the districts. He determined the population difference between the biggest district and the smallest district was greater than 10%, which required Agua SUD to make changes.


The Agua SUD board approved redistricting Plan A on Aug. 8, 2022. (Map courtesy of Agua SUD.)


Rios presented the board with three plans.

Plan A made the fewest possible changes, prioritizing the existing districts over equalizing population. Plan B and Plan C did more to equalize population but still avoided major changes.

Perhaps the biggest change Rios recommended, which he included in all three plans, moved the west side of La Joya from District 6 to District 7.

That may pit Sullivan City voters against La Joya voters in District 7. It would also provide rural customers with more power in District 6.

“I recommend either B or C because the deviation is lower,” Rios said. “But quite frankly all three plans are constitutional.”

The board, however, unanimously picked Plan A because members wanted to make as few changes as possible.

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