A panel of federal judges released a new set of maps for state legislative districts Thursday. The process of re-drawing these maps, known as redistricting, happens every 10 years to account for population changes reported by the United States Census. Typically, new districts are drawn by the state Legislature, but the lines drawn by the Legislature this spring were so gerrymandered that they ran afoul of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by depriving minority voters — who accounted for 89 percent of the growth in Texas over the past decade — of proper representation. The Legislature’s districts would have also split UT students into at least five congressional districts.
The new maps proposed by the judges are a more sensible approach. Most of the bewildering state-spanning House districts designed to protect incumbent Republicans have been removed. Austin, in particular, looks much cleaner. The judges are expected to release the new U.S. congressional maps Monday. If their Texas legislative maps are any indication, the new congressional districts should also be much fairer.
For all of the fanfare surrounding voting and attempts to combat voter apathy among UT students, little heed has been paid to a process which may render voting irrelevant and make elections a foregone conclusion. Redistricting, while often somewhat arcane, is a process that deserves more of our attention.