Austin residents can now apply to be on the commission to redraw City Council district boundaries. The city’s charter requires those lines be redrawn after the U.S. Census is taken every 10 years.
“These boundaries will shape how residents are represented … beginning in the election of November 2022 and going forward for the next decade,” City Auditor Corrie Stokes said.
Austin first created council districts in 2013, switching from at-large, or citywide, elections to 10 council districts in the 2014 election. Back then, a similar commission was created to draw the boundaries. This is the first time the lines are being redrawn.
The 14-person Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission will use census data as well as community input to draw the districts. Commissioners, who are unpaid volunteers, will need to consider things like keeping neighborhoods and communities together, geographical compactness, “reasonably equal populations,” and federal and state laws.
Residents fill out applications online, which will be narrowed down by a review board. Then, City Council members and the City Auditor’s office will further narrow down the list.
To be eligible for the commission, residents must have no conflicts of interest, have been registered to vote in Austin for at least five years and have voted in at least three of the last five Austin general elections – unless they’re students. One member of the commission will be an Austin college or university student who is registered to vote in Austin and has no conflicts of interest.
Stokes is expecting a bigger pool of applicants this year compared to 2013 when only 35,000 people met the voting history criteria. Now, more than 150,000 people meet that criteria.
“The first time we did it, we were doing that based on May local elections,” Stokes said. “When the local elections moved to November, as anticipated, we had a lot more participation. So, there are a lot more people eligible for the commission based on that voting requirement.”
Residents who are certified public accountants with five years of auditing experience can apply to be on the three-member Applicant Review Panel. The panel is responsible for identifying the 60 most qualified applicants for the commission based on the applicant’s “analytical skills, ability to be impartial and their appreciation for Austin’s diversity.”
After the panel selects who they deem the 60 most qualified applicants, each member of the City Council can remove one person from the list. The City Auditor’s office will randomly choose eight people from the remaining list to be commissioners. Those eight then choose who they want to fill the remaining six seats from the same list.
The 14 commissioners will serve a 10-year term, but most of their work will be between March and November 2021 when they will gather public input and adopt a final plan for the district boundaries. New districts go into effect November 2022.
The deadlines to apply to be on the panel and commission are Sept. 1 and Sept. 30 respectively.
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