Redistricting

Texas Congressional Redistricting – Are New Minority Districts Justified?

The redistricting process in Texas has been widely publicized in the news media lately. This exposure is mostly due to multiple court cases that continue to be litigated. As a quick overview, the Texas legislature passed a series of redistricting plans for new State House, State Senate and Congressional districts. The congressional plans included four new districts that Texas received under the new 2010 apportionment amount.

Immediately after the plans where approved, minority groups, including organizations such as LULAC, MALDEF, NAACP and others, opposed the new plans and filed suits stating, amongst other items, that the new plans did not reflect the increase and current status of the minority population in the state. Practically every article written on the redistricting situation in Texas reiterates this statement of minority population increase. This begs the question, “should Texas’ new race/ethnicity population figures justify an increase in the number of congressional districts where minorities can elect a candidate of choice?” The phrase “elect a candidate of choice” merely means that the district’s race/ethnicity composition is at a sufficient level for minority voters to ban together and decide which candidate to elect.

To provide some baseline statistics on the state, the 2010 Census placed Texas with a population of about 25.1 million individuals and thus it continued to be the second largest state in the country. The state’s total major race/ethnicity breakdown was 49.6% White, 37.6% Hispanic, 11.5% African American, and 3.8% Asian (using Not Hispanic population for White, Black, and Asian). Texas was one of only four states that were majority minority in total population. Also, Texas ranks fourth in minority total population percentage with 54.7% – right behind Hawaii, California, and New Mexico.

As mentioned in a multitude of news articles, Texas increased 4.3 million persons from 2000 to 2010 with almost 90% or 3.9 million of those persons minority. When reviewing the percentage of persons added in the decade using voting age population (VAP), minorities made up 80% of the new population. VAP is simply the population above the age of 18 years.

So, how should this new population alter the race/ethnicity characteristics of the new congressional redistricting plan? First, it is important to realize that congressional districts with a substantially low percentage of minority voters frequently do “not” elect a minority candidate. Second, although not an exact predictor, the race/ethnicity make-up of the state can be used as an estimator of the number of districts whereby minority candidates can be elected. This estimate is achieved by multiplying the total number of districts by the percentage of each race/ethnicity.

This “proportionate” number has approximated the number of districts electing African American members of congress in every state except for two, Texas and Virginia. That is to say that when the proportionate number reaches the next whole number, African Americans in the state have the ability to elect another candidate of choice. Regrettably, congressional districts electing Hispanic and Asian members are still pointedly lower than their respective proportionate population number. Also, the sad news is that the proportionate number relies on fair redistricting occurring in the state. If the state approves a plan that “packs” (putting too many minority voters in one or more districts) or “cracks” (splitting the minority population into one or more districts) the proportionate number will not equate to the election of candidates of choice.

Consequently, if we were to stop at this point and use voting age population to determine the proportional number of Texas congressional districts for the minority population, it would be:  12.1 Hispanic, 4.1 African American, and 1.4 Asian districts. This would dramatically increase the number of Hispanic districts and also increase the number of Black and Asian districts from where it stands to today. Currently, there are 7 Hispanic districts (the 7th one is debatable), 3 Black districts, and no districts where Asians can elect a candidate of choice.

That being said, the courts have ruled that, in certain states, citizen voting age population instead of voting age population should be used when developing redistricting plans. Citizen Voting Age Population or CVAP is the population above the age of 18 years, however, only including persons who are citizens. One of the problems using CVAP is that the data are not collected using the decennial 100% survey count, like the 2010 Census. It is collected in a separate monthly survey known as the American Community Survey (ACS). Therefore, it is a sampled estimate of the count. However, it is the best estimate that is available on a national basis.

When CVAP is reviewed, the state’s total major race/ethnicity breakdown becomes 56.5% White, 26.4% Hispanic, 12.9% African American, and 2.9% Asian (using Not Hispanic population for White however, Black and Asian include Hispanic population). If the proportionate number of congressional districts were calculated using the CVAP, the minority population would receive 9.5 Hispanic, 4.7 African American, and 1.1 Asian districts.

Therefore, using the proportionate numbers, the answer to the question of whether new minority congressional districts are justified, is clearly “yes.” Ideally, the new four districts would be apportioned: 2 Hispanic, 1 African American and 1 Asian. However, the Asian population may be dispersed vastly throughout the state and may be found to be improbable to create. If that is the case, the fair distribution for the new congressional districts would be 2 Hispanic and 2 African American or 3 Hispanic and 1 African American. Either way, the data reveals that the minority community deserves the full allocation of new congressional districts in Texas.

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