The Racial Side of Texas Redistricting

Politics in the South generally has a strong racial element. In spite of that, so far I’ve mostly viewed the Texas Eleven’s Ten’s fight as a battle over control of the U.S. House of Representatives. Today in Salon, Michelle Goldberg reports on the racial dimension of the DeLay/Rove/Perry plan. Specifically, in addition to likely extending Republican control of the House, redistricting will attenuate the effects of demographic trends in Texas that favor Democrats:

No Republicans returned calls for this story. But the redistricting standoff comes at a time when blacks and Latinos are on track to become majorities in Texas, leading some Texas Democrats to believe Republicans are using redistricting to limit the effect of demographic changes. One exiled Democrat recalls the candid comment of a Republican colleague: “We have 10 years until Hispanics take over.”

A quick visit to the 2000 Census QuickFacts for Texas (and the 1990 data) highlights the Republicans’ impending problem:

Category 2000 1990
White persons (Includes Latino) 71.0% 75.16
Black or African American persons 11.5% 11.89%
Persons of Hispanic or Latino origin 32% 25.54%
White persons, not of Hispanic/Latino origin 52.4% N/A
Other/Multiple 4.1% 12.89%

So yes, the Republicans will soon have a problem in Texas–unless they can concentrate the minorities into a small number of districts. Since the 1960s, racial gerrymadering in the South has been limited due to the requirement that proposed districts be submitted to the Justice Department for review. The Department reviews only for discrimination against minorities, not for naked power-grabs. But the districts that DeLay is trying to get through would apparently pass such scrutiny because, according to Goldberg,

The GOP proposal would redraw the state’s legislative boundaries so that minorities are concentrated into a few districts, likely leading to a net increase in the number of minority members of Congress. But the voting power of blacks and Latinos would likely be diluted in other districts, giving Republicans a net gain of as many as seven seats.


Salon also has a nice companion piece on Tom DeLay.