The top state & local issues in the year ahead
TOP STORIES OF 2021
Redistricting process that will affect every level of government gets underway in 2021
DRAWING THE LINES Austin and Texas will undertake redistricting in 2021. Although the state process is a largely political one, the city’s process is left to an independent commission. The new district maps will need to be nished before the end of the year.
BY CHRISTOPHER NEELY
treated as any other legislation and must pass both houses of the Legislature by the time they adjourn May 31; however, since the Census Bureau could be delayed in delivering the data to states, the Texas Legislature may need to call a special session to deal with redistricting. If the House and Senate cannot agree on the state-level maps by the session’s end, the Legislative Redistricting Board—composed of the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the house, attorney general, comptroller and the commissioner of the general land oce—takes over. The board has 60 days from its convening to adopt its own maps. If the Legislature cannot agree on congressional maps by the session’s end, the courts are responsi- ble for adopting the maps. The remapping of Austin City Council’s 10 districts tries to avoid politics by leaving the pro- cess up to an independent volunteer board. After starting with a pool of 60 volunteers selected by a panel of certied public accountants, the 14-mem- ber Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission responsible for drawing the maps will be lled out by the end of February. The city charter regulates the drawing of City Council districts. They should each have nearly equal population; district boundaries must touch one another; boundaries should avoid dividing established neighborhoods or communities; and they should be as compact as possible. City Auditor Corrie Stokes selected the rst eight volunteers Jan. 23. The inaugural eight have until Feb. 28 to appoint the remaining six members. The commission will have until Nov. 1 to receive com- munity input, then draw and adopt the new City Council district map, which will rst be in eect for the November 2022 City Council elections.
When the 2020 census data is nalized this spring, it will inform a massive eort to redraw voting districts at every level of government, from the United States Congress to local city councils. The once-in-a-decade process of drawing what are essentially political lines through communities across the United States is often fraught with parti- san debates, as the party in power typically draws and adopts district maps to its political advantage. In Texas, Republicans are rmly in control of both the state Senate and House of Representatives for the 10th consecutive legislative session and will control the redistricting process for both state and federal seats. The new maps will determine how voters are grouped and carry signicant political implications for the next decade. In drawing the new map for Texas’ U.S. House of Representatives districts, law requires the Texas Legislature to ensure the districts are as equal in population as possible and are not drawn in a way that disenfranchises voters based on race. Since Texas is estimated to have added 4.1 million people since the last census in 2010, Texas’ number of U.S. House seats is expected to grow from 36 to 38 or 39. The Texas House and Senate are xed at 150 and 31 districts, respectively. The Legislature will need to ensure no boundaries are drawn according to race; however, there is more leniency in terms of population. Texas House and Senate districts are allowed to deviate up to 10% from the ideal district population—the population of a district if all were evenly divided. The Texas Legislature convened Jan. 12. The original deadline for states to receive the 2020 census data was April 1; however, the pandemic is expected to cause delays. Redistricting maps are
OCT. 1, 2020 JAN. 15, 2021 City auditor selected review panel to create list of 60 most qualied volunteers JAN. 1522 Sitting City Council members each were able to strike one volunteer from the list JAN. 23 City auditor randomly selected eight volunteers to Independent Citizens JAN. 24FEB. 28 Selected eight volunteers choose remaining six MARCH 1NOV. 1 2021 commission hosts public comment and draws, nalizes and adopts new maps N OV. 8, 2022 First election under new maps Redistricting Commission
JAN. 12, 2021 87th Legislature convenes
MARCH 12 60-day bill ling deadline, including redistricting bills APRIL 1 Deadline for Census Bureau to deliver redistricting data to state MAY 31 Legislature adjourns regular session AUG. 29 Deadline for the Legislative Redistricting Board to convene OCT. 28 Deadline for Legislative Redistricting Board to adopt maps
MARCH 1, 2022 First election held under new maps
SOURCES: AUSTIN CITY AUDITOR, TEXAS LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
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