Redistricting isn’t the first thing that comes to mind at the kitchen table. But, while it looks like redistricting won’t alter the maps too much in favor of the split between the Republican and Democratic parties in congressional districts this year, there are some implications for the growing Latino population.
In recent days, there have been a number of stories in the news about the voting rights case involving congressional and state legislative districts in Texas that made it to the Supreme Court last week. The case that was heard before the Supreme Court was a consolidation of Perry v. Perez, Perry v. Davis, and another Perry v. Perez. Last year, the GOP controlled legislature drew maps after the 2010 census, and Governor Rick Perry signed these maps into law. Ethnic interest groups challenged these state legislature drawn maps.
Because of the Lone Star State’s booming Latino population, Texas gained four congressional seats after the 2010 census revealed that there were an additional 4.3 million residents. Latinos are credited with about 65% of that increase in population. Under the state legislature drawn maps, there aren’t any new minority opportunity districts, and some majority minority districts are diminished.
A lower court in San Antonio had previously made changes to the state legislature’s maps, and Latino advocates favor the lower court’s maneuver. The Texas Attorney General is claiming that the panel of federal judges in San Antonio did not have the legal authority to alter the maps.
With the Texas primary coming up on April 3, a resolution to this conflict is anticipated, and this is where the Supreme Court stepped in last week.
Texas, smack in the middle of the country, has become ground zero for the Latino redistricting battles.
In New York, a coalition of Asian American, Latino and African American groups released its set of redistricting maps that may amplify the large ethnic populations’ influence. These maps were sent to state lawmakers last week as just one of the many proposals that they will consider in finalizing new maps that reflect the 2010 census.
Arizona’s newly redrawn congressional and state district maps should be approved in the upcoming week. They used an independent redistricting commission. But Republicans have criticized the new maps as diluting their influence. Arizona is another state where the Latino population has grown and is starting to flex its political muscle most recently with the recall of Russell Pearce, the architect of SB 1070.
In the Golden State, three Republican Congressmen recently announced that they would no longer seek re-election. Most notably, Congressman Jerry Lewis, a 17-term incumbent, announced last week that he would be retiring this year. These congressional districts were recently carved up by the Citizen’s Redistricting Commission, which took the process of drawing districts out of the state legislature and placed it with citizen commissioners. California is another state where the Latino population has continued to make gains, while leaning heavily Democratic.
Additionally in California, the state Senate district maps are still in dispute. Republicans are accusing the Redistricting Commission of drawing up partisan districts. There may be a referendum on the ballot to settle the issue; the State Supreme Court is already involved in this battle.
For more resources on Latinos and redistricting, take a look at the redistricting websites for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund and Latinos Draw the Lines, a site created by the NALEO (National Association of Latino Elected Officials) Education Fund.