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TribBlog: Latinos and Redistricting

Guess which demographic group is calling dibs on new congressional seats?

Texas is poised to gain more congressional seats after the 2010 census than any other state.  Bipartisan firm Election Data Services, Inc. projects a net gain of 4 seats  (real ones).

States like Texas will “owe this expanded power to Latinos” and should allot its new districts accordingly — so says a new report from immigration reform advocacy group America’s Voice Education Fund.

Titled “The New Constituents: How Latino Population Growth Will Shape Congressional Apportionment After the 2010 Census,” the report details how Latinos made up over 63 percent of Texas’ population growth since 2000 – “the greatest change, positive or negative, among any state in the nation.”

However, the group notes that there could be some bumps on the road to securing more Latino-friendly congressional districts, since legislative redistricting processes like Texas’ often become “enmeshed in partisan politics.”

This point is backed up in the report with a little Texas history:

“When drawing new Congressional borders following the 2000 Census, the Republican- controlled Texas legislature ‘moved’ 100,000 citizens from the majority Latino Congressional District 23 to Congressional District 25 in order to protect a District 23 incumbent who was out of favor with Latinos.  In their place, the legislature added residents from predominantly white Republican counties to District 23, which dropped the Latino share of the citizen voting- age population from 57.5% to 46%.  To complete the jigsaw puzzle of redistricting, the legislature created an expanded District 25 that ran three hundred miles down the state. Latinos comprised 55% of this new District’s citizen voting-age population, but the two primary Latino communities were divided between the far north and the far south of the district.

In League of United Latin American Citizens et al v. Perry, Governor of Texas, et al, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that ‘Texas’ redrawing of District 23’s lines amount[ed] to vote dilution violative of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.’ The District 23 incumbent, Republican Henry Bonilla, lost the next race in 2006 to Democrat Ciro Rodriguez. Though the GOP’s gerrymandering attempt was struck down by the Court, it demonstrates how race and politics factor into the redistricting process and provides a cautionary tale for parties and state legislatures seeking to engineer such districts in the next round of redistricting.”

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