Redistricting Process Getting Going
Soon the city of Austin will invite residents to apply for the redistricting commission, the group of 14 people that will draw boundaries for new City Council districts.
By Dec. 1, the city’s auditor will get the complex process created by Proposition 3 going. It’s an effort to create a true citizen commission that draws district boundaries without regard to political objectives.
That was the intent of the authors of proposition. They spent decades pushing the proposal, some since 1973, and now they find themselves without a role in the process.
“We’ve learned a lot while drafting and passing the citizen’s districting 10-1,” said former State Sen. Gonzalo Barrientos. “We offer now our experience and skill to help expedite the smooth adoption of this new, fairer election system.”
To be considered for the redistricting commission, Austinites must have voted in at least three of the last five city elections. No paid lobbyist can apply. No public officials. Someone who has contributed $1,000 or more to a council member’s campaign may not apply. The list goes on.
So who can apply?
“A good example would be, let’s see, Nelson Linder could apply to be in the commission. I’m not sure he is even interested in doing that,” said Linda Curtis, a Prop 3 activist.
Linder heads the Austin chapter of the NAACP. If he were interested in applying for a seat on the redistricting commission, a three-person independent auditors’ board would need to certify that Linder met the requirements and then would place him in the applicant pool.
At some point, the auditors will reduce the pool to a group of 60. Then each council member will have the right to disqualify one candidate for any reason.
That would leave 54 candidates. The auditors will draw eight names at random. Those eight will then appoint six more people from the original pool. The additional appointees need to be diverse in sex, race and expertise. The full commission needs to be in place by July 1.