Politics
2:51 pm
Wed May 11, 2011

Proposed Senate Map Would Split Travis County In Four Parts

Travis County's influence on state politics would be watered down in a proposed redistricting map proposed by Senate Redistricting Chairman Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo). The county would be sliced four ways in the redistricting map for the state senate, with each quadrant rolling into more politically conservative counties that surround it.

State Sen. Kirk Watson's (D-Austin) district currently covers more than three-quarters of Travis County. The new map would reduce that to about half of Travis, and add rural Bastrop County, which went 53 percent to John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

The map would introduce two new state senators to Travis County, one of whom lives more than 200 miles away. Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo) and Sen. Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay) would join Sen. Watson and Sen. Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) representing Travis County in the state senate.

The Senate redistricting map already has one North Texas Democrat accusing Republican leaders of a "shameful partisan attack." Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the new map tears apart a coalition of minority voters who helped her beat a Republican incumbent in 2008.

After reviewing the map for the first time Tuesday, the Fort Worth Democrat fired off an angry letter to the head of the Senate Select Committee on Redistricting and said she plans legal action to challenge the plan, which revamps her 10th senatorial district.

"I'm very sure we will be in a court battle," Davis told the Star-Telegram.

Meanwhile, the State Board of Education redistricting map keeps Travis County divided along the Colorado River. That map is now on its way to the governor's desk. The Austin Chronicle reported on objections by Sen. Watson, who pointed out that it also divides one of the largest school districts in the state.

In a letter to his colleagues, he pointed out that Travis County is easily populous enough to anchor a complete SBOE district without dividing the county. "Instead, the proposed map cuts the county in two parts for no apparent reason," he wrote. (The division dilutes the liberal Austin vote and guarantees we'll continue to be represented by conservative Republicans, including far-right SBOE member Ken Mercer.)

You can view the proposed redistricting maps using this map viewer on the Texas Legislative Council's website. Under the "Select Plans" menu in the top left, choose "Base Plan". Then under the "Plan Type" menu, select "Senate". You will be prompted with a menu that will let you see the current Senate districts and Sen. Seliger's statewide proposal.

The next step is for Seliger to hold a first committee hearing on his plan. That's currently scheduled for Thursday morning at the State Capitol.