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El Paso’s sluggish population growth could affect representation at Texas capitol

The Texas Capitol building in Austin.
Lakana news file
The Texas Capitol building in Austin.

EL PASO, Texas -- Could El Paso's voice in Austin get quieter? It all depends on the outcome of the upcoming census. The state of Texas is seeing a population boom, but data shows El Paso's growth is far slower.

"Indicating from the census numbers (released) early this spring that El Paso, and a lot of West Texas, has remained stagnant," said Dr. Amber Archuleta-Lucero, an assistant professor of government at El Paso Community College. "And that is troubling and could pose a problem for all of us, and a risk in terms of losing some seats."

Population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau in April showed El Paso County's resident count was 840,758 in July 2018.

It's up from the census in 2010, when it was 800,647. Calculations show the rate of growth was 5 percent.

But compare that to other metro areas in the state. Bexar and Tarrant counties -- which encompass San Antonio and Fort Worth -- grew by 15 percent in the same time frame. Travis County, where Austin is located, saw 21 percent growth.

"Based on our (state) constitution, we have 150 members in the House and 31 senators in the Texas Senate," said Rep. Cesar Blanco, (D) El Paso District 76. "The maps change based on population. Where the population grows, that's where the districts move to."

Blanco thinks -- based on the outcome of the 2020 Census -- El Paso's delegation to Austin could be diluted.

"If we can't keep up with the growth in other communities, the worst-case scenario is that we lose that representative. Our hope is that we don't," Blanco said. "Our hope is if we can draw a map that includes that fifth representative and maybe keep them in El Paso County and have them represent other parts of Hudspeth and Culberson and maybe other communities, that would be ideal."

"Redistricting is a big deal," Lucero said. "It's about power, it's about gaining power, it's about controlling that power, it's about numbers in terms of funds for schools, funds for roads and funds for bridges."

Blanco is a part of the Paso del Norte Complete Count Committee.
It's composed of local elected leaders and government officials, with the goal of raising awareness about the census and and its mission to count everyone, not just citizens.

"Noncitizens alike use our roads and use our health care system in our community so we need to make sure that the funds that are tied to people are allocated fairly," Blanco said. "And unfortunately, if we don't have an accurate count, Texas is not going to receive its fair share."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that census takers cannot ask about citizenship status.

The 2020 Census is taking place on April 1. Elected officials throughout the city and county of El Paso are urging everyone to take part and be counted.

Article Topic Follows: Texas Politics

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Stephanie Valle

Stephanie Valle co-anchors ABC-7 at 5, 6 and 10 weeknights.


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