Friday, December 23, 2011

Texas Redistricting

Texas is growing.  Well, their Hispanic population is growing.  The whites, not so much.

Total population (from 2000 to 2010) started at 20,851,802 and rose to 26,145,561.  That is a rise of 4,293,741 people, or about 20.6%.  This is a lot - the US as a whole grew only about 9.7%  (source).  When one state grows more than the rest of the country, they get extra congressman - at the expense of those states that lost.  In Texas's case the 2010 Census gave them four new congressmen.

Those congressman get assigned to districts, which are set up by the state legislatures.  They get rid of all the old districts and make new ones - that may or may not bear any resemblance to the old ones.  This is called redistricting.  The state legislatures are pretty free to do whatever they want.  They could keep everything simple and make a bunch of regular shapes - squares, rectangles.  But that would simply be doing their job, without taking into consideration their own personal interests.

Instead they are almost always very partisan.  They come up with wierd shaped districts to do things like put all their opponents in one district, and let themselves get other districts that are easy for them to win.     That is, if you are creating 5 districts out of 3.5 million people, 1.5 million of whom are liberals and 2 million  of whom are conservatives, you could put 700 million liberals in one one district, and then create 4 other districts, each of which has 200 million liberals and 600 million conservatives.  The districts generally have to be continuous - you can't put one house of liberals surrounded by 10 houses of conservatives in separate districts, but they can be very weirdly shaped, like a spiral.  This version of redistricting is called "Gerrymandering".

In fact, there is also one vile practice, legal in Texas (but not all states - New York does not allow it), of counting criminals in prison as 'residents' of the county they are imprisoned in.  Other states, such as New York, use their legal residence, - i.e. where they lived before prison.  Since the prisoners can't vote, are largely non-white, and usually are put in rural areas to save on money, in effect a small white area can count as a district because of all the black and Hispanic prisoners that can't legally vote. 

The rural prison districts quite literally are stealing the votes of their prisoners, votes they very much use AGAINST the interests of those prisoners (for some reason, voters in rural areas near prisons tend not to like the prisoners).  In fact, given that 1% of our population is currently in prison, and we have 435 congressmen in the country, that means that it would be possible (if we moved all the prisoners in the country to Texas), for the GOP to make at least 5 congressional districts out of just the prisoners and the people that work at the prison.  In effect, you steal 5 congressmen.  Whatever happened to one man one vote?  It's not supposed to be one cop = 5 votes (his + 4 prisoners).

All of this is quite legal, even if it smacks of corruption and in my opinion, outright evil.  In effect the politicians are using government authority to benefit their own party, not the country.    It's kind of like someone passing a law that says donations to their own political party are tax free, but not to their opponent. Why is it legal?  Because the politicians that are doing it are also the people that decide what is legal and illegal.

It's not quite as bad as it sounds.  Another reason it is legal, is that it is not that effective.  You can physically move ALL the people into an area, you can just design a really weird shaped ones to get as many as possible.  More importantly, it only really lasts a couple of years.  People move, age, change their party.   So once every 10 years, the party that is in power tends to get a slight advantage for the next two-four years.  After 5 years or so, the shapes are no longer that helpful.  Except of course for the prison districts - people can't move out of them.  Those are permanent 'pro rural/anti-crime' votes.

But you see, Texas has a problem.   While it is legal to put all the Texan democrats (and yes, they do exist) in one district, it is NOT legal to do the same with all black people.  Or all Hispanic people. Because federal voting rights laws (Voting rights act of 1965) prevent you from eliminating a races effective vote.

Guess who are responsible for Texas's 20% growth rate?  I'll give you a hint - it isn't Germans, French, or Irish.

Non-hispanic whites grew from 10,933,313 to 11,397,345 a gain of 464,032 or about 10.6%.  Not that much better than the country as a whole of 9.7%  A growth rate of 10.6 earns you no more congressmen.

Latinos grew from 6,669,666 to 9,460,921 a gain of 2,791,255,  or about 41.9%

Blacks grew from 2,364,255 to 2,886,825 a gain of 522,570 or about 22.1%

(No other racial group had more than 1 million people)

(Click here to download my an excel source from

So basically, Hispanics, with a bit of help from blacks are entirely responsible for the fact that Texas outgrew the rest of the country and earned more congressional districts.  If it was just the whites, they would have no new seats.

First, let me point out that at their current rate of growth, Texas will be mostly Hispanic by the next census.  9.5 million growing at 42% will beat 11.4 million growing at 10.6%.  And it will turn mostly Democrat BEFORE then.  In large part because the GOP continues to treat Hispanics poorly, despite the obviousness of this trend.  Texas will once again be a Democratic stronghold, not a Republican one, within 10 years.  In fact, I bet that in 2016, when Obama retires, the Democrats will win all of Texas's electoral votes for presidential.  Even with the prison cheat.  Of course, that assumes someone better than Biden is running.

Second, back to the Texas's problem.  You see, while Texas will become Democrat, right now, it is strongly Republican.  As such, the GOP did the redistricting, try very hard to give Republicans more districts and create no new Democrat districts.

That meant they had to work very hard to give the Hispanics no new districts.  So they took mostly Hispanic districts moved the non-Hispanics out and added more Hispanics to them.  Then they carved out enclaves of non-Hispanic districts for the new ones.  To do this they had to put some Hispanics in the 'GOP' districts, but they made sure to keep it light.  They succeeded, in large part because Hispanics tend to be in the same place - cities and SW border sections of Texas.   All the new districts created by the Republicans in the Texas State legislature were non-hispanic majorities.  Every single one.

People noticed.  They sued.  The federal court agreed it was racial discrimination and came up with their own redistricting plan that gave the Hispanics 3 new districts - which were obviously Democrat districts and one district that is probably going to be Republican.

This pissed off the Republicans - they were in power and thought it was THEIR right to gerrymander, not the Democrats.  How dare the Democrats do what the GOP wanted to do?

In fact I have read of Republicans complaining that the judge gave the districts to the Democrats on purpose - all the while ignoring the clear fact that the GOP did exactly the thing they are complaining the Judge did.  In other words - the GOP's complaint is that they have the legal right to be corrupt, not the judge. 

The thing is the Judge is not being corrupt.  He did NOT look for Democrats, he looked for Hispanics - the people that caused the population growth in the first place.

This is not judicial activism, this is outright fairness. You want the extra congressman the Hispanics earned for the state?  Give them to the Hispanics.  No you can't steal them.   Trying to will just make sure you lose their votes for the next 20 years, like you lost them the last 40.

So it goes to the Supreme Court Of The United States (SCOTUS)  The question is, will the court say "It is the Legislatures allowed to be a partisan dick and screw over the Hispanics that gave them the new districts."   Or will they say that anti-discrimination laws prevent it?

Honestly, this will only affect Texas for 2-4 more years.  By 2016, the Hispanics will have moved enough to mess up the carefully drawn GOP districts and it won't matter that much anymore.  In fact, I expect Texas to go Democrat a BIG way by then.   But till then, the SCOTUS decision will control about 3 congressmen for the next 4 years.

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