Oct 18, 2021 - Politics

Reshaping Austin’s political boundaries

Austin City Hall

Austin City Hall. Photo: Asher Price/Axios

Austin is reshaping its city council boundaries — and the redistricting commission is hosting public forums to get input.

Why it matters: Austin’s population is larger and more diverse than it was when districts were first drawn in 2013. Redistricting changes how Austinites are represented in the city council — including their political clout and the makeup of the council itself.

Yes, but: Even as the city is more diverse, its percentage of Black residents has fallen and grown more diffuse, challenging map makers to create a district with a decisive mass of Black voters.

What they're saying: “We’re trying to give the possible opportunity for a person of color to elect a representative of their choice,” Christina Liu Puentes, chair of the redistricting commission, tells Axios.

  • Puentes was speaking chiefly of Black and Latino Austinites on Austin’s East Side.
  • The redistricting commission decided to forego an “Asian opportunity district” — even though Austinites of Asian descent now outnumber Black residents.
  • “Essentially, we don’t have an Asian opportunity district in Austin because Asians in Texas don’t have the precedent for levels of voter suppression and oppression as Asians in the West,” Puentes said.

The Asian population “is more dispersed than the African American population,” Austin city demographer Lila Valencia tells Axios.

  • “The Asian population is mostly located in three main areas of the city: northwest, northeast and southwest," she continued. "The challenge even in those areas will be to see if there are sufficient Asians and Asian voters to draw a district that would allow them an opportunity to elect a candidate of their choosing.”

How it works: Each of the city’s 10 council members should represent the same number of voters, per city guidelines.

  • Neighborhoods are supposed to be kept together as much as possible.

Make your voice heard: City officials will host a Zoom forum from 6-8pm today.

  • A final meeting will be held at the Dell Jewish Community Center at 7300 Hart Lane from 6-8pm on Wednesday.

The big picture: The low temperature of the city process is in contrast with the redistricting battle underway at the state Capitol, as lawmakers argue over congressional boundaries that could shift the balance of power in Washington.


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