Off the Kuff Rotating Header Image

A closer look at the proposed County Commissioner precincts

Rick Casey does some analysis of the proposed Harris County redistricting map and notes some concerns about the way Precinct 2 was drawn.

The total population of the proposed new precinct is 57 percent Hispanic and 31 percent Anglo. But the voting age population is just 52.5 percent Hispanic to 35.7 percent Anglo.

And when you look further, at the numbers of citizens of voting age, the ratio changes dramatically. Estimates are that only 38 percent are Hispanic, and 50 percent are Anglo.

According to Columbia Law School Professor Nathaniel Persily, an expert on the Voting Rights Act, Justice Department lawyers who will review the new lines will look at total population and voting age population.

“However, the DOJ specifically asked for a special tabulation from the Census Bureau for citizen voting age population, as derived from the American Community Survey averages from 2005 to 2009,” he said.

There may be a bigger problem with something called retrogression. Some county officials point out that the proposed precinct has a higher percentage of Hispanics than it did in 2000.

That’s true, but both Persily and Steve Bickerstaff, who teaches voting law at the University of Texas law school and has a thriving practice in the field, agree that the law doesn’t measure retrogression from 10 years ago, but from the precinct as it now stands.

By that measure, the proposed lines raise the percentage of Anglos by about 3 percent and lower Hispanic numbers by about the same.

What’s more, the precinct would be substantially more Republican than it is today.

Democrat Bill White carried the current precinct in last year’s governor’s race by 49.4 to 48.7 percent. But Gov. Rick Perry carried the proposed precinct by 52.6 to 45.6 percent.

Greg has a look at all of the new precincts and adds some details. I’m still waiting to see what 2008 numbers for Steve Radack’s precinct look like, but as Precinct 2 is the one where an incumbent was ousted it’s obviously of the most interest. Casey notes that Precinct 2 mostly shares a boundary with Precinct 1, which is also protected by the VRA and which also needed to add population, making the whole process a lot more complicated. I wish we had the option of adding more County Commissioner precincts, as I believe that would address a whole range of issues, but that would require a constitutional amendment, and that ain’t gonna happen. According to this County Attorney redistricting info page, this map was given preliminary approval, so I presume any changes from here will be small unless subsequently dictated by the Justice Department or a court. We’ll see what comes out of those four public hearings that are scheduled over the next two weeks. More from Greg is here.

Related Posts:

Comments are closed.