Austin voters sue new city council districts

The lawsuit claims that thousands of voters will not be able to elect their city council member this year because the boundaries have been redrawn.

AUSTIN, Texas — This week, 12 voters filed a lawsuit claiming their right to vote was infringed due to the redrawing of Austin City Council boundaries.

Bill Aleshire, who represents the 12 electors, said his clients believed their rights were not being respected because before the redistricting they were planning to vote in the council elections to be held in November. Due to redrawn boundaries for city council seats, they can no longer vote for the city council member who represents them.

“We had a government agency tell voters who their council members are without them having had the opportunity to vote for them,” Aleshire said.

Nearly 24,000 Austinites are in the same situation as the 12 voters he represents, according to Aleshire. The City of Austin became a city council divided into geographic districts in 2014. Last year marked the first time district boundaries were redrawn. Six of the city council’s 11 seats are up for election this year. The lawsuit seeks to place all 11 seats on the ballot instead.

RELATED: New Preliminary Austin City Council District Map Released

“This lawsuit will not affect the fact that half of the board will be elected at some point and the other half in the future,” Aleshire said. “The only reason this lawsuit is being filed is because of redistricting and you not moving voters for the rest of the decade. So it’s going to happen again in 10 years.”

City council members serve for four years. Aleshire thinks there are at least two ways to adjust the elections after redistricting while keeping staggered electoral politics in place.

RELATED: Texas Violated Suffrage Law During Redistricting, State’s Incumbent GOP Senator Said in Court Affidavit

“Yes [City Councilmembers Vanessa Fuentes, Jose ‘Chito’ Vela, Mackenzie Kelly, Leslie Pool and Allison Alter] are on the ballot, it could be that they are on the ballot just for a two-year term to complete the two-year term,” Aleshire said. “The other possibility would be to do exactly what was done when the 10-1 council system was put in place: the 10 districts ran. After the elections, they drew lots to determine who had a two-year term and who had a four-year term. »

The seats of Fuentes, Vela, Kelly, Pool and Alter were all elected in 2020. 2022 marks the half of their terms at City Hall.

“We’ve never had this situation,” Aleshire said. “Let’s get an agreed order from the judge that you put the 10 districts because of the redistricting. That would be the noble and correct thing to do.”

Asked about the lawsuit, a spokesperson for the city of Austin replied that city attorneys had received the lawsuit and would notify the city council at the next available opportunity. It will either be March 22 or March 24 during an executive session of a city council meeting, according to the spokesperson.

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