Austin's 10-1 group begins search for remaining six members

Members of the group that will draw Austin's new voting districts met for the first time May 31.

Their first order of business will be to appoint six new members so the group is diverse along the lines of geography, race and gender, among other criteria.

The members agreed that they would generally approach member selection by precinct geography, then race and then gender.

Background

In November, Austin voters approved Proposition 3, which changed Austin City Council to 10 single-member districts and a mayor elected at-large.

Since Austin did not have voting districts, an independent group was created to draw them. The first eight members of the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission were chosen at random out of a 60-applicant pool in May.

The first eight members are:

  • Magdalena Blanco
  • Rachel Farris
  • William Hewitt
  • Arthur Lopez
  • Mariano Diaz-Miranda
  • Carmen Llanes Pulido
  • Anna Saenz
  • Maria Solis

The eight must handpick the remaining six members of the 14-member commission before the group can begin work on the new districts.

Selection requirements

The ICRC's charter offers some criteria for picking the remaining six members among the remaining 52 applicants.

"These six appointees shall be chosen to ensure that the commission reflects the diversity of the City of Austin, including but not limited to racial, ethnic and gender diversity," according to the City Charter. "However, it is not intended that formulas or specific ratios be applied for this purpose."

One commissioner must be a student enrolled in a community college or university in Austin who lives in Austin and is registered to vote.

The charter states that at least three commissioners must come from each Travis County commissioner precinct.

Among the first eight ICRC members, two are from Precinct 1, one is from Precinct 2, no one is from Precinct 3 and five are from Precinct 4.

To meet the "three from each precinct" rule, the ICRC would need to appoint three people from Precinct 3, two from Precinct 2 and one from Precinct 1.

There are only two students among the 52 remaining applicants, and both live in Precinct 3. The commission had considered interviewing both students prior to appointing one.

To reach gender equality, ICRC would need to appoint four men and two women. The first eight include no African-Americans or Asians.

Public comment

Citizens who spoke at the May 31 meeting congratulated the eight on their appointment and for being part of Austin history.

Guadalupe Sosa said she had high expectations for the commission and hoped they operated with transparency.

Roger Borgelt of Austinites for Geographic Representation encouraged the commission to select its remaining six members in the next 30 days and move with all deliberate speed in order to get the new district map to the U.S. Department of Justice for approval.

Nelson Linder of the Austin branch of the NAACP called on the commission to work with the spirit of the law and be fair and inclusive.

Frances Mcintyre of the League of Women Voters Austin Area said that the task of creating the new districts would be hard work but well worth the effort.

Also at the meeting, the eight members were sworn in and were briefed about the Texas Open Meetings Act and the Public Information Act.

The group's next meeting is scheduled to take place at 6:30 p.m. June 7 at Austin City Hall. For more information, visit the city's 10-1 website.