The statewide map creates one new Latino district, maintains the current number of black opportunity districts and pairs 16 incumbents in districts where they would face one of their colleagues in the 2012 elections.
I can understand the assertion that it’s hard to accurately reflect Texas’ rapidly changing population demographics with something like the SBOE map and its paltry 15 districts. But there are ten times as many House districts as there are SBOE districts. Surely we can do better than that.
Karen Loper, Vo’s chief of staff, said her boss saw trouble ahead in the proposed pairing with his Houston colleague who represents a neighboring district.
“We certainly have a great concern about combining two districts that are Voting Rights districts,” she said. “On the face of it, it looks like it would be a violation.”
Loper noted that both districts are an amalgamation of minority populations, including Hispanics, Asians and African-Americans, but their combined strength would be dissipated. “The Asian population goes down because they’re scattered among several districts, and so do Hispanics,” she said.
I’m not a lawyer, but it’s not clear to me that Vo’s district is a VRA-protected district. As I understand it, the current HD149 is majority non-Anglo, but no single group has a majority share of the population, and as such it doesn’t qualify for VRA protection. But in case you missed the part where I said I’m not a lawyer, don’t take my word for this. I’m sure it would come up in any litigation related to the Solomons map, if it is the basis for the final product.
On the matter of my first point, one group with an interest in seeing more Latino opportunity district has put its money where its mouth is by presenting a map of its own.
There are 30 [Latino-majority districts] now. In the proposal from the Texas Latino Redistricting Task Force, that would increase to 35, with new seats that represent opportunities for Latinos in the Panhandle/South Plains, in West Texas, and in Hidalgo County. Two existing seats, in Tarrant and Harris counties, would be redrawn so that Latinos make up the voting-age majority.
The task force includes the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the League of United Latin American Citizens, the American GI Forum, the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, the William C. Velasquez Institute, the La Fe Research and Education Center, and the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project.
You can go here and select base plan H115, “MALDEF Statewide House Proposal 1”, to see their handiwork. Here’s a view of Harris County under their plan:
The unlabeled green district in the middle is HD148. Note that they put us back at 25 seats, and they maintain Rep. Jessica Farrar as my Representative. Their map has one more incumbent pairing than the Solomons map does, and all of theirs are R-on-R. You can see who drew the short straw for that here. I note that they keep the Scott/Torres pairing; Rep. Mike Villarreal had expressed concerns about that in the Solomons map. The Harris County seat that gets redrawn as Latino majority is HD138, but it’s only a majority at the population level; the district is 5.15% Latino by population but only 45.6% by voting age population, and likely much less than that at the CVAP level. Finally, you will be pleased to note that the infamous WilCo barbell is gone, replaced by an HD20 that still includes Burnet and Milam but is joined by a much larger (and presumably less populated) portion of northern WilCo. An open seat, HD71, is added to the existing HD52. I’m sure we’ll see plenty more maps before all is said and done. Texas Politics has more.