Background

This past legislative session, Republicans passed controversial redistricting maps for Texas seats in Congress, and in the Texas House and Senate. While I hate to see their strategy succeed statewide, I decided to focus my objections on one GOP map in particular that dilutes voting interests here in Austin.

Prior to redistricting, Texas had 11 minority opportunity districts in the U.S. House of Representatives. This new map drops the number to either 9 or 10, while stripping Austin of its long-standing seat in Congress. Currently Austin is split ridiculously into three Congressional districts, one of which is now represented by a Democrat – Congressman Lloyd Doggett. According to the new map, Austin would be split into FIVE districts, with not one of those having a population center based in Austin.

This offends me. I have long seen that Austin enjoys a “community of interest” that is distinct from any group of voters, including those in San Antonio. The Texas Legislative Council defines a community of interest as “a grouping of people in a geographical area, such as a specific region or neighborhood, who have common political, social, or economic interest.” Certainly that is what we have in Austin, and unlike any other voting bloc in Texas, our community of interest is multi-ethnic and multi-racial. Travis County Hispanics and African-Americans have long joined with white voters to elect both white and minority candidates to public office. That’s called PROGRESS, people. No wonder the GOP wants to put an end to it.

Under their map, we could completely lose the power of our progressive voting bloc in Congress. That is why I am fronting a lawsuit to stop the GOP map. As lead plaintiff in the case Rodriguez v. Perry, I am committed to defending the value of an Austin-based seat in Congress. Mine is one of several lawsuits from all over the state that fight the Republican effort to disenfranchise voters. What makes Rodriguez v. Perry distinct is that it’s the only one that focuses on protecting a whole voting community, including many races and ethnicities, who have learned to speak together with one voice. Our collaboration makes us a model for the rest of the state. No one should divide us.

My hope in writing this column series is to empower you with knowledge and passion for the fight to keep at least one Congressional seat anchored in Austin. Please check back here weekly for updates, and please reach out to me if you have questions or comments to share. I can be reached at (512) 463-0674 or at eddie.rodriguez@house.state.tx.us. Thank you for reading, and for your support.