Court approves redistricting for timely elections

Rachel Thompson

Federal court officials in San Antonio created five congressional House districts in Travis County on Tuesday, outlined by newly drawn maps.

The maps will be used for the upcoming primaries and potentially for elections later this year, provided that no successful appeals are brought forth that will change the districts, said Texas Representative Burt Solomons, R-65, said. A Washington, D.C. court must approve these maps before any elections can be held. The University will be a part of Congressional District 21, currently represented by Republican Lamar Smith. “The court received a great deal of proposals and went through this entire process and decided to put out what they believe should be the maps used,” Solomons said. “They’re trying to get us to where we can have elections and get a timetable set for early voting. The maps have allowed us to move forward on that.”

Solomons said some were pleased with the redistricting while others would have liked to see more changes. The maps can be appealed if plaintiffs decide they are unhappy with them, Solomons said.

“You can’t draw a perfect map that makes everybody happy — you can only do the best you can,” Solomons said. “Judges are doing what they can in their jurisdiction, so now we’ll hopefully have a chance to move forward.”

Travis County Democratic Party chair Andy Brown said the Democratic Party wasn’t pleased with the newly drawn map.

“I think it’s a terrible map — Travis County has been hurt by this map,” Brown said. “It made it so that Travis County no longer has effective representation in Congress. The Republican majority has more voting strength and can silence our votes.”

The new map, he said, will change the district for Lloyd Doggett, an Austin Democrat, who will run in the new District 35, spanning from Travis County to San Antonio.

“The only way [the Democrats] have a voice is if Doggett gets re-elected,” Brown said.

Andy Hogue of the Travis County Republican Party said he is happy that Republican seats were preserved and feels the map correctly represents the vote of the people.

“There’s still a lot of uncertainty because it’s a very complicated map,” Hogue said. “But the Legislature is the people’s house, so if the Legislature wrote the map, then it should stand.”

Despite his personal praise of the new map, Hogue said he recognizes the concerns of the Democrats over the new map.

“What the courts drew is a politically-motivated map,” Hogue said. “I think there will always be some disagreement.”

Gary Freeman, government professor and department chair, said he thinks other states have better models for redistricting that better reflect the interests of the people.

“It’s too much to expect the legislature to separate their interests from giving people the right representation,” Freeman said. “It’s especially important for the minority candidates and minority voters. It’s a very unusual system that should be changed.”

University Democrats president Huey Fischer said student awareness is a major issue in the midst of the redistricting.

“The redistricting situation has been a mess — there isn’t enough awareness,” he said. “These are things that elected officials are responsible for informing students about, but because there’s so much confusion, they’re not doing that.”

Printed on Thursday, March 1, 2012 as: Travis County redraws lines: Court approves redistricting for timely elections