Proposed Senate map slices Austin to pieces

In today’s Austin American Statesman, Senator Kel Seliger argues in favor of the proposed Texas Senate Redistricting Map. This map carves Travis County into four Senate districts and places much of East Austin into a Senate district represented by Laredo Senator Judith Zaffirini. “This map puts her into (state Rep.) Eddie Rodriguez’s district in East Austin,” Seliger said. “That will protect the status of her district.”

Senator Seliger’s argument groups all Hispanics into one category and ignores the fact that a Hispanic resident in East Austin is very likely to have different constituent needs, cultural identity, and values than a Hispanic resident of Laredo hundreds of miles away. Travis County has a growing Hispanic community and under current representation has a unified voice. The new Seliger map significantly reduces this voice and entirely misrepresents our communities of interest. Hispanics in Travis County also have an increasing voting strength, and with a successful coalition of voters we consistently elect the candidate of our choice. If this plan stands, it would sever our unified voice and divide our community of interest.

We feel empowered here in Travis County and would like a say in how, and by whom, our city and county are represented. This map greatly weakens our voting strength and assumes that the Hispanic population in Central Texas is the same as the Hispanic population along the border hundreds of miles away. This is not about me, Senator Watson, or Senator Zaffirini. This is about the City of Austin and Travis County being represented by a local leader who shares and upholds the values of our communities of interest.

It seems like Senator Seliger is saying that Texans with Spanish last names are all the same. To treat Texas Hispanics as one homogenous group is not only wrong but is out of touch with the reality of our growing population. Personally, I would like an apology in the form of a new map.