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Precinct data: County Commissioner precincts

I wish they called County Commissioner precincts by some other name, because it’s confusing to refer to them as such when one is discussing canvass data, which is data from the thousand-plus voting precincts in Harris County. But that’s the name we’re stuck with, so make sure the clutch on your context-shifter is in good shape. Before I get to the data, I’ve been looking for a formal story on the end of the county redistricting trial, but this Houston Politics post from Friday appears to be all I’m going to get.

Commissioners Court interim map

The court’s first Hispanic member, Democrat Sylvia Garcia, represented Precinct 2 for two terms before losing to Republican Jack Morman in 2010. She took the stand Thursday and testified about discrimination against Latinos. The plaintiffs have to prove that point (and several others) in order to get Precinct 2 declared a protected minority-opportunity district under the Voting Rights Act, which likely would produce a more favorable Precinct 2 for a Hispanic candidate than the map the county adopted.

“I think discrimination still exists. It just may be more subtle, it’s more creative, more clever, but it’s there,” Garcia said, adding that deficits Latinos face in education, housing and health care, and that local and state governments dissuade Latinos from participating in the political process.

[…]

The plaintiffs’ attorney Chad Dunn pressed [Morman’s chief of staff Dave] Walden on why, during the redistricting process, he had requested information about the politics, prevalence of straight-ticket voting, ethnic makeup and voter turnout in various voting precincts being considered for inclusion in Precinct 2. The data showed the precinct would have a higher share of white voters, and a higher share of Republican votes.

Dunn asked Walden if removing Latinos from a close district makes it harder for Latinos to elect a “candidate of their choice” (language from the Voting Rights Act).

“I really believe this: It depends on factors in addition to their ethnicity before I could give you a hard and fast judgment,” Walden said. “But going by ethnicity alone, you could probably say that.”

Dunn asked whether Walden knew that by making those changes Morman’s electoral advantage would increase. “True,” Walden said. Dunn asked whether Walden had an interest in making the district more Republican. “Absolutely,” he said.

The defendants have stressed that these gripes are about politics (a permissible factor in redistricting), not discrimination. They say the plaintiffs must “negate partisanship” to prove their claims.

The trial, or at least the testimony, wrapped on Friday. No clue when a ruling may come. Be that as it may, let’s take a look at the data. With three of the four Commissioners on the ballot, it was easy to sort out the data from all four precincts. I’ve divided the presentation below into two groups, one for the five statewide candidates, and one for the five non-judicial countywide candidates.

CCP Obama Sadler Henry Petty Hampton Tot votes ====================================================== 1 76.74% 75.90% 75.79% 77.57% 77.24% 293,101 2 48.63% 47.59% 48.40% 50.62% 49.78% 210,222 3 40.62% 39.93% 37.97% 40.66% 40.92% 317,331 4 36.99% 36.21% 35.15% 37.58% 37.20% 349,526 CCP Garcia Ryan Trautman Bennett Oliver ============================================== 1 79.05% 77.66% 77.62% 76.68% 74.35% 2 54.21% 50.75% 50.83% 49.21% 47.43% 3 44.83% 42.21% 41.70% 39.71% 37.37% 4 40.99% 38.22% 38.21% 36.59% 34.70%

The “Total votes” figure is simply the Romney plus Obama total for each precinct. I put that in for some perspective. Adrian Garcia had the largest margin of victory in Morman’s Precinct 2, defeating Louis Guthrie there by over 17,000 votes. Keith Hampton missed carrying Precinct 2 by 868 votes. It’s fair to say that in a Presidential year, the map used for this election makes Precinct 2 highly competitive. How things may play out in a non-Presidential year under a possibly different map is anyone’s guess at this time. For what it’s worth, I did the computations for all 34 District, County, and Circuit Court of Appeals races as well, and found that Democrats won 13 and lost 21. Of possible interest is the list of the top five vote-getters in Precinct 2 among the judicial candidates:

Candidate Votes Pct ======================================= David Mendoza 104,404 51.28% Julia Maldonado 104,389 51.08% Ruben Guerrero 103,474 50.80% Alexandra Smoots-Hogan 103,378 51.01% Michael Gomez 103,240 50.64%

I’m going to step out on a limb here and suggest that maybe it would be wise for the Democrats to run a Latino/Latina candidate here in two years. Just a thought, you know? Oh, hell, I’ll quit being coy: There’s no doubt in my mind that Sylvia Garcia would be the strongest candidate against Morman, if she chose to run. That would require her to lose in the special election in SD06, then want to get right back in the saddle again (likely with a depleted campaign treasury) and have a crack at a rematch with Morman. I have absolutely no idea how probable that scenario is.

Anyway, the other point of interest is Precinct 3, which as I recall was made slightly more Republican after swapping some turf with Precinct 1 in order to boost the latter’s overall population. That plus the decline in Democratic turnout from 2008 meant that Adrian Garcia lost about two and a half points from that year. On the plus side, this is the beginning of the decade, not the end of it, so if demographic change continues as it has been, I’d think there’s a decent chance of Precinct 3 being competitive in 2016. As always, this assumes a Democrat who can raise a few bucks steps up to run. It’s never too early to start recruiting.

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9 Comments

  1. Mainstream says:

    At first glance this evidence appears to show that a large number of candidates preferred by Hispanic voters (including a number of candidates who are themselves Hispanics) are able to win in the district in the configuration selected by the Commissioners Court, and thus that the lawsuit to force redrawing the district should fail.

  2. These results are from the interim precincts, not the precincts that the Commissioners drew for themselves. I’d consider going forward with the interim precincts to be an acceptable outcome.

  3. Mainstream says:

    I stand corrected. Assuming the analysis would show that fewer candidates of choice of Hispanics would win in the original configuration, then the fairness issue becomes whether that original configuration allows fair opportunities for victory in view of the size, concentration, and level of citizenship of the existing Hispanic population of the county. The legal issue may be quite different: whether a covered juridiction is legally prevented from ever reducing minority percentages for a district entitled to no legal protection under the VRA, where is chooses to look to incumbency protection or partisan advantage or protection of an adjacent district which IS VRA-protected instead.

  4. Burt Levine says:

    In Fort Bend County each voting pct. begins with the pct number of the county commissioner, county justice of the peace and county constable that presides in that pct. which makes any conversation regarding voting, georgraphic or ethnic vote numbers and percentages so much easier to communicate.

  5. Ross says:

    Burt, that won’t work in Harris County, where there are 4 commissioners and 7 constables, and 7 multiplace JP precincts.

  6. Mainstream says:

    Actually, there are 8 constables and 8 JP precincts each with two JPs in Harris County. Some counties may nest their constables and JPs wholly within certain commissioner districts. (Some states nest their state reps within state senate districts, where there are for example 30 senators and 90 reps.) This would certainly be administratively desirable, but might require moving courthouses when populations shift within a county, and might allow a constable to build a power base and contest a commissioner. The Harris County JP/constable districts are widely disparate in population. This might be a violation of one person, one vote jurisprudence, but judicial districts are not considered to “represent” voters, and are allowed to be dissimilar in population. In Illinois there is a 3 seat Supreme Court district in metropolitan Chicago, allowing that population to send three Democrats to the state supreme court, while single court districts might elect a suburban Republican. The rest of the districts in the state are single member. In Louisiana there are a number of contorted racially-drawn districts, also uneven in population, both for higher and lower courts. Some functions of the JPs and constables might be legislative in character, but thus far no challenge based upon the one person, one vote basis has been brought. Also unclear is how preclearance under the Voting Rights Act would operate in the event of such a change. Trevino’s constable district 6 and the majority black district 7 might be considerably less Hispanic or black, respectively, if equalized in population. The legal dispute would be whether “changing” to equal population is intended to be racial discrimination, or has the effect of reducing minority political opportunities, and thus would not be precleared by the DOJ. Although I continue to anticipate Section 5 of the VRA requiring preclearance of this or any other election changes by Harris County and others will soon be ruled invalid.

  7. abe lincoln says:

    ok lets win for the DEMOCRATIC TEAM ,JACK MORMAN met with pct 4 win they were taking over.he has never came to wade rd. camp in pct 2 to meet with previous employees,maybe were not as good as your fiuture employee’s.

  8. […] here and here for the previous updates. I say there’s a pretty good argument for the county not […]

  9. […] map was slightly friendlier to Democrats in Precinct 2, and the 2012 election results showed that Precinct 2 would be very competitive in a high-turnout year. The Commissioners’ map was intended in part to shore up […]

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