Lockney City Council opts to abolish voting districts

The Lockney City Council deliberates its possible redistricting plans during a Jan. 18, 2022 meeting. (Alex Driggars/Floyd County Record)

LOCKNEY — During their regular meeting on Tuesday morning, the Lockney City Council voted to forgo redistricting its single-member wards and opted to instead move to completely at-large voting in its future city council elections.

During its December meeting, the council was presented with three options for redistricting the town, each of which would bring the population difference between the districts following the 2020 Census within acceptable margins, according to attorney Bob Bass of the Allison, Bass & Magee firm that the city hired to handle the redistricting. All three of those plans would have resulted in three wards with a majority of each of those wards’ populations consisting of minorities. During that meeting, Bass strongly advised against moving to an at-large system, warning that such a change would open the city up to litigation under federal voting rights legislation.

MORE: Lockney council weighs redistricting plans, at-large representation

At Tuesday’s meeting, city manager Buster Poling described the current hybrid single-member district system, under which aldermen do not have to live in the district which they represent, as “a big mess.” When asked by the council for his recommendation, Poling suggested abandoning the single-member districting in favor of an at-large election system.

City attorney Lanny Voss noted that the move could involve some risks for litigation under the voting rights act but said that, considering demographics and historical voter turnout, any case brought against the city would be hard to prove.

“We’re still subject to some aggrieved citizen saying that (at-large representation) dilutes minority rights,” Voss said. “In practicality, the voter turnout has been so low that it would be hard, I think, to show that it discriminates against minority individuals. Just look at our last elections, look at the voter turnout. It would be virtually impossible to show that there was any dilution of minority voting rights by the voter turnout.”

Alderman Donnie McLaughlin presented another alternative viewpoint, arguing that at-large representation would actually bolster voting rights. McLaughlin said that, since anyone would be able to vote for any candidate in any election, instead of just the candidate for their district every two years, voter rights and participation would increase.

“Actually, you’re increasing their ability to turn out and vote because they can vote in every election and not be limited to the precinct that they’re living in,” McLaughlin said.

A public hearing was held to solicit comments on the redistricting proceedings, but no members of the public addressed the council.

The council voted 4-0 to begin the process of moving to the at-large system. Mayor Michael DeLeon was not present.

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