Redistricting and the Black Caucus

Redistricting and the Black Caucus


As reported by Lauren Victoria Burke of Crew of 42

HERE COMES REDISTRICTING… In less than a month we will have a clearer picture of how redistricting will effect the districts of the current 44 black members of the Black Caucus.  One thing is known: There will be major changes in the upcoming round for several members in terms of additions to their districts.  Whether the changes will result in seats being in jeopardy is unlikely — but there are a few examples where things will get interesting for several CBC members.  Since Missouri, Georgia, Iowa, Texas and Indiana are either losing or gaining Congressional seats in Congress, there may be three members who may have to run against another Democrat. Reps. Marcia Fudge, Cedric Richmond, Lacy Clay and Don Payne may have interesting situations on their hands as a result. But “interesting” doesn’t mean they’ll have a re-election problem.

The state where the highest level of games can most likely be played is Texas. Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, Eddie Bernice Johnson and Al Green are dealing with the issue of increasing Latino populations in their districts as well as an unfriendly Republican Governor in Rick Perry.  “Right now we’re at the deliberation and discussion point but it’s gonna be dicey.  It’s not gonna be easy.  We have four seats and most people think that’s a bounty of gifts but when you [have] the attitude that seats should not be divided fairly, then you have a problem,” Jackson Lee said. “The worst case scenario is redistricting decides to change the whole map. Certainly we know that Hispanics in our state deserve seats and I want that to happen. I want that to happen in a collegiate way and we could get it to happen if our Republican friends would work with us,” she said last Thursday.

Members who will see large additions to their districts are Don Payne (+100,000/NJ), Emanuel Cleaver (possible +115,000/MO), Marcia Fudge (+200,000 addition/OH), Tim Scott (100,000/SC), G.K. Butterfield (+97,000/NC), Barbara Lee (+60,000/CA), Bobby Scott (+60,000/VA), Andre Carson (+40,000/IN), Mel Watt’s district has to gain 3,000 people because the growth of the population in Charlotte, NC.  Reps. David Scott had to shed 100,000 people in his district. Al Green will lose 20,000 people.  In Virginia, there is quiet talk of creating a second minority district though the scenario involves erasing the Republican district of Rep. Randy Forbes — so the plan seems unlikely.  That would reduce the minority percentage in Bobby Scott’s district and create a minority district in Richmond. In many cases, the Voting Rights Act read here mandates minority districts.

Because of the Hurricane Katrina there was a major decrease in population in the New Orleans district now represented by freshman Rep. Cedric Richmond.  There will at least be three Louisiana House districts eliminated as a result.  Another CBC member who may face an interesting situation is Rep. Chaka Fattah. Even though his district of metro Philly will most likely be his for as long as he likes, the chance for partisan games remains a possibility.

In Illinois, Reps. Danny Davis, Jesse Jackson and Bobby Rush may end up in a situation where on of the three districts will be under 50% minority representation because of a large population decrease in the Chicago metro area, combined with Illinois losing a Congressional seat.

In California, Reps. Barbara Lee, Maxine Waters, Laura Richardson and Karen Bass shouldn’t have any major changes.  California has a special redistricting commission instead of their state legislature getting into the act.  In Texas, Reps. Sheila Jackson Lee, Al Green and Eddie Bernice Johnson, like the Californians, are dealing with big increases in the Latino population in their districts.

The CBC members who will deal with no changes either way to their districts are Reps. Elijah Cummings and Donna Edwards of Maryland, Allen West of Florida and Bennie Thompson of Mississippi.  New York Reps. Charlie Rangel, Ed Towns, Greg Meeks and Yvette Clarke have taken a “we’ll see” approach but no major changes are expected in either district.

Lauren Victoria Burke is a writer and editor of Crew of 42.  She’s covered Capitol Hill since 1999, both as a writer and as a photographer, and has worked on the Hill for Senator Tom Daschle at the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and in Senator Ted Kennedy’s education office.  Lauren has also held positions at ABC News, USA Today, Associated Press, The Washington Post and The Hill newspaper.


  1. In my state, redistricting will benefit only Republicans— they control both houses and the governor's office, but they never have enough.

    Already, our districts are gerrymandered to a laughable degree. The courts, through mystifying decisions, say that's OK.