AUSTIN, Texas — This week, the third special session for the Texas Legislature kicked off with redistricting front and center.
Sen. Joan Huffman (R-Houston) filed Senate Bill 4, formally the first bill in the session to propose changes to State Senate district lines. Since the first bill submission last weekend, Huffman filed a new map with new changes.
Some current districts, as well as proposed changes, divide neighborhoods. Of course, the lines have to be drawn somewhere, but some South Austin neighbors say they're one, defined neighborhood, so they should not be divided into different political districts.
"We are constituents of the same space. We do kind of similar things, similar families, so it would be ridiculous to have them be with a different senator," Santiago Toledo said, pointing to his neighbors' homes across the street.
Toledo lives in State Senate District 14, represented by State Sen. Sarah Eckhardt (D-Bastrop). His neighbor who lives just a few houses down and across the street, Katie Carpenter, lives in Senate District 21. Carpenter is represented by State Sen. Judith Zaffirini (D-Laredo). SD21 stretches from the South Austin neighborhood to the Texas border, which isn't new for the district. However, learning about redistricting is new for Carpenter.
"It would probably make more sense to make sure that you have like a good representation of what the area believes," Carpenter said.
The State Senate districts are larger by definition because there are fewer senators than state representatives. Carpenter and Toledo live near a unique junction at United Kingdom Drive and Slaughter Lane. While the two are in different State Senate districts, Slaughter Lane also acts as a dividing line, so the intersection of United Kingdom and Slaughter acts as a single point where three different districts come together.
Even so, neighbors there find it more understandable for Slaughter Lane to play that role rather than their neighborhood. Slaughter Lane is a much busier thoroughfare with higher traffic and fewer homes. Both Carpenter and Toledo agree if lawmakers must change district boundaries, find more natural lines like waterways, railroads and highways.
"I would say it's probably better to have more change to keep up with how often change things within a given population," Carpenter said.
"If it's going to cause more division, you know, across people that we are already so fragmented in the state and everywhere else, we don't want even neighborhoods now at the micro-level begin to be fragmented," Toledo said.
Use the slide tool below to take a look at how the Texas Senate's proposed redistricting map compares to how districts currently look in the State of Texas. On the second image, red lines indicate where the current State Senate districts are, and the black lines show the most recently proposed changes to State Senate districts.
PEOPLE ARE ALSO READING: