Commission OKs 10 voting districts

Group finalizes map, sets stage for November 2014 elections

The commission charged with creating Austin's new voting districts split the city into 10 City Council districts Nov. 25.

The 14-member Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission finalized the map after receiving feedback at public meetings held from August to November.

More than 1,000 people provided input to the commission, ICRC Executive Director Craig Tounget said. The map took effect after the commission approved it.

In November 2012, Austin voters approved Proposition 3, which changed how the city elects its representatives.

The current six-member council and mayor were elected at-large, or elected by everyone to represent everyone.

Starting in November 2014, Austinites will elect council members to represent each of the new 10 voting districts, while the mayor will still be elected at-large.

"It's going to be interesting to see what it means to the future of Austin," Tounget said. "I think Austin politics are going to be significantly different from here on out. There are going to be people serving on the City Council from areas that have not been represented in the past, and I think that was the goal from the start.

"There were many areas of the city, and the outlying areas especially—south, north, east, west—that felt that they had not been represented before."

At the Nov. 25 meeting, ICRC Commissioner Carmen Llanes Pulido said she is proud of the work the group has done to complete the map.

"The reality is that there are still great disparities in our city in terms of resources and access, and many of those areas have not received adequate representation," she said.

"I feel like we have really stewarded this process the best that we could according to the charter. For the first time there is going to be adequate and equal geographic representation in the city of Austin."

Tounget said the commission received skepticism because the members did not have prior experience with redistricting. He said the group produced a good final product.

The diversity of backgrounds on the commission added a plethora of ideas about what is important to different areas of Austin, he said.

"People had very different ideas about what they thought parts of the map ought to look like, but they truly were all here for the right reason," Tounget said. "They came up with a really good map."

On Dec. 11, the commissioners held a meeting to create a final compilation of the redistricting process, including a description of how decisions were made and a guidebook for the next ICRC, which will form after the next census in 2020, Tounget said.

The commission could also meet Jan. 8 if it needs more time to discuss the final report and guidebook. The map will not be discussed as no changes will be made to it, he said.

"To have them all unanimously agree on this map was just amazing," he said. "It was kind of an amazing process of democracy."

Now that the map is approved, interested residents can declare their candidacy and begin running for the new council positions.

This is Part 1 of a two-part series. Our January issue will cover how the new maps will affect Southwest Austin.