Redistricting commission map includes 45-percent student district

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The Austin Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission passed the final map late Monday night, outlining 10 city council member districts, including a student opportunity district comprised of 45 percent students.

Ryan Rafols, a government sophomore and member of the commission, said the district will ensure students’ interests are represented in Austin City Council.

“Any representative of that district will have to pander to students,” Rafols said. “They have to represent student interests because students could easily sway the vote.”

Some commissioners were opposed to drawing a student opportunity district because students, unlike racial minority groups, are not a protected class, Rafols said.

“[Many commissioners] wanted to cut UT into different pieces and cut downtown into little pods, and students would have no voice,” Rafols said.

Rafols said the councilperson elected in 2014 for the district will have significant influence.

“Because the central core of Austin is such a seat of economic power, students really do have much more say than they’ve ever had in Austin,” Rafols said.

Rafols said tax rates are one of students’ most important interests, and he hopes the person elected to represent the district beginning in 2014 will focus on this.

“Students will come out and vote for lower tax rates,” Rafols said. “Every year, tax rates go up on commercial properties, and then they pass it onto the students and renters.” 

Erik Anciaux, a physics graduate student and proponent of the district, said the number of students in the district is close to the maximum possible number of students in one district, which is 47 percent

The commissioners will sign the map Monday. The next redistricting period, which will be done by 10 different commissioners, will take place in 2020.