The Austin Chronicle

Redistricting 2001

Putting Texas Politics on the Map

By Mike Clark-Madison, April 6, 2001, News


Districts: 31

IDP, 2000: 672,639

Actual Range: 576,638 (--14.27%) to 857,704 (+27.51%)

The same 10% range around the IDP applies in the Senate, but in practice the county-line rule is widely ignored, which allows for more creativity. Plus, it's almost unheard of for senators to get bounced from their seats by redistricting.

And with two exceptions, the seats that are way too big (major-metro suburbs) are next to districts that are too small (the inner cities). For example, Dist. 25 (Jeff Wentworth) is the most overcrowded in the state. Dists. 19 and 26 (Frank Madla and Leticia Van de Putte), Wentworth's neighbors in San Antonio, can easily absorb the excess, although this must be done carefully to keep Wentworth's own San Antonio home from landing in one of their districts.

One of the two exceptions is Dist. 29 (Eliot Shapleigh) in El Paso; since the entire western half of the state is underweight, filling up Dist. 29 may require moving people through Dists. 28 (Robert Duncan) and 30 (Tom Haywood) all the way over into Dist. 8 in Collin County. And Dists. 8 and 9 (Florence Shapiro and Jane Nelson) are so overcrowded that this isn't impractical. The bigger problem is our own Dist. 14 (Gonzalo Barrientos), which is surrounded by also-too-large districts, including Wentworth's. Since the last thing Wentworth needs is more people, the alternative is for Travis County to also be shared with Dist. 18 (Ken Armbrister), Dist. 5 (Steve Ogden), and/or Dist. 24 (Troy Fraser).

Fraser lives in Horseshoe Bay, at the very edge of his district but close enough to us, but Armbrister is in Victoria and Ogden in College Station. Moving our Westsiders to Fraser's district -- whose largest city is Abilene -- muddles suburban interests with rural ones, and if Barrientos were to give up voters to Armbrister or Ogden, they would likely be voters of color on the Eastside, which puts Barrientos' own base at risk. And if Wentworth takes Barrientos' excess, with additional trimming of Dist. 25 (say, in San Angelo) to make up the slack, then the bulk of Wentworth's voters will be in the Austin (rather than San Antonio) metro area. Of all the senators, the one most opposed to such quirkiness is Wentworth, who chairs the redistricting committee and who calls his own district an example of what not to do. He has a hard row to hoe.

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