White Texas voters overrepresented in proposed cards, analysis finds

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AUSTIN (Texas Tribune) – The Republican majority’s proposals for all of the state’s political maps have come out, and each is skewed in favor of the same voters: white Republicans.

One thing leads to another. Republicans hold all state-wide offices, as well as a majority of the delegation to the State Congress, Texas House and Senate, and the State Board of Education. It’s only fitting that these politicians want to expand their dominance in state government and seize every opportunity to hurt Democrats and help Republicans.

But the race-party correlations in the Texas election dangerously equate this strategy of political discrimination with racial discrimination. White Texans are more likely to vote Republicans than Democrats. Hispanic and black Texans are more likely to vote Democrats than Republicans.

And cards like the ones presented by lawmakers over the past two weeks are a consequence. According to the last US census, 39.8% of the population is white, 39.3% is Hispanic, 11.8% is black and 5.4% is Asian.

In the political maps drawn by lawmakers in the current Special Legislative Session, White Texans are overrepresented and other groups are underrepresented.

In the original Texas House map, the majority of eligible voters (known in redistribution and enumeration data as the Citizen Voting Age Population) in 59.3% of districts are white, in 20% are Hispanic, and in 2.7% are black. No district has an Asian majority, and in 18% no group has a majority.

In the proposed Senate map, 64.5% of the districts have a white majority, 22.6% have a Hispanic majority, 3.2% have a black majority, none have an Asian majority, and in 9.7%, no group has a majority.

White Texans make up the majority of eligible voters in 60.5% of the ridings proposed by Congress, followed by Hispanic Texans at 18.4%, Black Texans and Asian Texans without a riding majority, and 21.1% of ridings without. majority group.

At least the cartographers are consistent.

You can’t draw cards like that with beautiful geometric shapes. We don’t live like that, and only a set of wavy lines can divide Texans into groups that best serve political cartographers. This kind of gerrymandering is legal, and sometimes it is even fair.

Here’s a definition from the Texas Legislative Council website, the state agency that draws redistribution maps and does other legal work for the state legislature: group or party over another.

Intention is everything. In arguments – live and on social media – gerrymander is a term used to describe a neighborhood you don’t like. If it’s bad, it’s a gerrymander. But not all strangely shaped neighborhoods are created equal. If this is meant to give someone or a group an unfair advantage, it’s not the same as creating a fun pattern to connect people whose mutual interests are protected by law. It could be communities with common interests or issues, for example, or communities of color.

Texas Republicans try to connect voters on the basis of politics, which is okay unless they cross a legal line – one that’s drawn, for example, to protect against racial discrimination. That’s for the courts to determine, but a simple analysis of the maps proposed for the Congressional delegation, the Texas Senate, and the Texas House reveals part of the cost of protecting the state from the Democrats.

A perfect match in the 150-member Texas House, if the overall population mix was your guide, would be 60 majority white districts instead of the 89 in the proposed map, 59 majority Hispanic districts instead of 30, 18 districts black instead of 4, and eight Asian-majority districts instead of none.

A perfect match between representation and population is practically impossible. The groups are dispersed, and the gerrymandering required would be astounding. Even so, it is difficult to explain the fairness of the proposed cards which have 39.8% of the population of Texas – the white party – represented by 60.2% of the Texas legislature; 39.3% – Hispanic Texans – represented by 20.4%; 11.8% – Black Texans – by 2.8%; and 5.4% – Asian Texans – by none.

The Texas legislature could approve it, and federal courts, when given the opportunity, could ratify it, but those numbers don’t add up.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at www.texatribune.org. The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, non-partisan media organization that educates – and engages with – Texans about public policy, politics, government, and statewide issues.


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