Friday, November 18, 2011

Court Proposes Interim State House And Senate Redistricting Maps

The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas in San Antonio proposed new State House and Senate district maps late Thursday and asked for comment by the end of the day Friday.

To read the court's orders for their proposed maps click - State House and State Senate. To see the maps noted in the court orders go to DistrictViewer website operated by the Texas House and look for House maps under "Exhibits for Perez et al" and Senate maps under "Exhibits for Davis v. Perry."

The court intends to have new U.S. congressional and legislative maps in place for Texas on the Monday after Thanksgiving -- the court-set date when candidates for the Texas House and Senate and for the state’s 36 congressional seats will officially start filing for a place on their respective party's primary ballot. The filing period ends at the end of the day on Dec. 15th.

Effectively, when filing closes on Dec. 15 primary races in more than half of the districts will be over because a large number of incumbents won’t draw serious opposition within their respective party.

For the remaining contested primary races, the people who represent those districts will effectively be chosen in March, in the party primary elections. That is because even the court-drawn political districts will remain toxic to candidates from one party or the other.

Nearly two-thirds of the districts are configured to be problematic for anyone other than Republicans to win given the historically low voting turnout among Hispanic and African-American communities. Few Democrats will step up to run in districts where Democratic voters never turnout to vote.

Texas Monthly Burkablog:

I will leave to others an analysis of winners and losers in redistricting. The only point I want to make is something the Republicans refuse to accept: You can’t ignore demographics. Republicans drew a map that maximized Republican seats and ignored Hispanic population gains. No one should be surprised that the federal courts did not let the map stand. It would have been simple enough for Republicans to squeeze a few more minority seats into South Texas and the Metroplex, but they didn’t want to do it. That refusal put the entire map at risk. Why Republican mapmakers thought they could ignore Hispanic growth statewide is a mystery. Virtually all of the population growth statewide is due to Hispanic gains. (I haven’t seen the San Antonio court’s congressional map yet, but the reason Texas has four new seats is due to Hispanic population growth.) And yet, the Republicans did everything they could to avoid drawing new Hispanic seats.
Texas is a majority-minority state for the first time in a redistricting period, according to the 2010 census count. Anglos now account for just 45 percent of the state's population, down from 52 percent a decade ago. The Hispanic population is now 38 percent of the total population—growing by 42 percent—while the African-American population grew slightly and is now 12 percent of the total population. The voting age population is a little different: 49.6 percent Anglo, 33.6 percent Hispanic, 11.4 percent black and 3.9 percent Asian.

The decennial census for Texas totaled 25,145,561 people living in the state in the first half of 2010 for a 20.6% increase over the number of people living in the state in 2000, courtesy of the burgeoning Texas Hispanic and black populations. Almost 90 percent of the state's growth was from minorities. A fair redrawing of new state Senate and House and U.S. Congressional district lines must allow the minority groups, who accounted for 90% of the population increase, the opportunity to elect their choice of those represent them -- especially in the four additional U.S. House Texas earned by Texas' overall population increase.

Texas Tribune:

One reason redistricting, while dull, is important: The people who draw the maps, to a large extent, circumvent voters’ decisions by employing laws intended to protect voters from disenfranchisement.

Many of the not-so-many people who are watching redistricting think Democrats will gain some ground in the court maps. Their logic is simple: A Republican legislative supermajority drew the maps that the courts are revising, and changes will most likely go against the authors. It’s reasonable to guess that the Democrats will pick up some districts, or that more districts will become competitive.

Those lawyers, legislators and litigants are conflating race and party, taking advantage of laws that protect minorities to protect Democrats, and there’s reason to think it will work. Minority voters in Texas have generally favored Democrats over Republicans. If the courts increase the number of minority districts, they’ll be increasing the number of Democratic districts.

Republicans have won about all of the seats they can win, given the law and current voting patterns. Long term, they will have to start winning more minority votes in Texas to increase and fortify their numbers. Democrats have a different problem. Minority voter turnout is lower than Anglo voter turnout. The growth in the minority population in Texas — it accounted for 89 percent of the state’s growth over the last decade — isn’t reflected in the political numbers. It doesn’t matter how many minorities are in a district if they don’t vote.

The state’s 23rd Congressional District stretches from El Paso all the way east to San Antonio, and has become a battleground in the court fights. And this population vs. voting pattern is part of the argument. Attorneys for the state — defending the Legislature’s maps — contend it’s already a minority opportunity district where Hispanic citizens of voting age comprise 58.5 percent of the population. They have the power to elect the candidates of their choice, the state argues in a brief filed this week.

“To the extent Hispanic voters are not successful in doing so, this is only because of low voter cohesion and low voter turnout, neither of which the Legislature was required to account for when maintaining this overwhelmingly Hispanic district,” the state’s lawyers wrote.

One argument on the other side is that lawmakers intentionally packed that district with non-voting Hispanic precincts to inflate the population numbers while protecting the Republican incumbent, Representative Francisco “Quico” Canseco of San Antonio.

For the moment, the federal judges in San Antonio and Washington control how this election cycle will work. After that, the power in places like CD-23 transfers to a relatively small, self-appointed group of elites: Texans who vote in the party primaries.

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