This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Ugly Side of Redistricting

As I have noted before, the post-2010 census congressional redistricting has reached the court challenge and general complaint stage. Today's New York Times adds two new wrinkles: (1) many cities are unhappy that they are now in a district that includes suburban and rural areas, which might mean that their interests will be downplayed by their elected representative (these are complaints, but not challenges); and (2) a federal court has actually redrawn the boundaries of four districts in Texas in order better to adhere to the Voting Rights Act. An editorial in the NYT sums up the essence of this court challenge:

Texas grew so much over the last decade that it qualified for four new House seats. Almost all of that growth — more than four million people — came from new Hispanic residents, but when the Republicans who control the State Legislature drew the new districts last summer, they reduced the number of districts where minorities could elect the candidate of their choice to 10 from 11.
Hispanics tend to vote Democratic, and under the Texas redistricting plan, the number of safe Republican seats would have risen to 26 from 21. This egregious violation of the Voting Rights Act prompted Hispanic groups to sue, and last month a federal court panel threw out the Legislature’s plan, which was also backed by Gov. Rick Perry. The court has drawn up a plan with three new districts in which minorities would be the majority, potentially giving the Democrats a gain of as many as four seats. Republicans immediately cried foul, demanding an end to judicial meddling.
But applying the law — that is, redrawing the flawed map — is exactly what the court is required to do when a state violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which explicitly prohibits practices that dilute the ability of minority groups to elect the representative of their choice. Because of its history of discriminatory practices, Texas is required to get clearance from the Justice Department before making electoral changes — permission that both the department and now the federal court denied.

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