How about those new Latino Congressional districts?

In the end, not so much.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett

Originally hailed by Latino leaders as a way to boost opportunities for their community, the newly redrawn Texas congressional map has led to a pair of white Democrats claiming the nominations in districts that were crafted with Latino majorities. The result could be that five of the state’s 36 congressional districts will be represented by Latinos when the 113th Congress convenes in January — exactly the number in the current 32-member delegation. The best-case scenario would have them claiming one-sixth of the state’s House seats.

Latino leaders are split on the developments. Some are dismayed that while Latinos account for 38 percent of Texas’s population, and were key to the expansion of the state’s House delegation, that may not be reflected in a larger Latino presence in the delegation.

“There’s the strong possibility we may get zero,” said Sylvia Romo, the tax collector for Bexar County, who lost her bid for the congressional nomination in a new district stretching from San Antonio to Austin. “We got four [new seats], and we Latinos could end up with zero.”

Others suggest that it is up to candidates and campaigns to take advantage of the new demographic reality. Nine of the 36 Texas seats next year will be from Latino-majority districts.

“The purpose of increasing Hispanic political opportunities is not about sending more Hispanics to Congress. I don’t know why people think that way,” said Nina Perales, a lawyer at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF). “It’s about increasing the voice of Latino voters. They can elect whoever they want.”

One of the newly-redrawn seats that was won by an Anglo last week was CD16, in which Beto O’Rourke knocked out 8-term incumbent Rep. Silvestre Reyes. I’m pretty sure none of the people involved in redistricting, including the litigants, foresaw such a possibility though at least one blogger did. But Rep. Reyes didn’t lose because the new map made CD16 more hostile to Latinos and more amenable to Anglos. Rep. Reyes had some baggage, O’Rourke ran a strong campaign, and he had some help from a third party. These things happen. Perhaps from here O’Rourke does a good job and becomes an entrenched incumbent, or he sees his star rise and takes a crack at statewide office in a few years, or he himself gets challenged by an ambitious pol in 2014, presumably a Latino, and loses. Point being, Latino voters made the choice here, and they will continue to be able to do so.

As for CD35, the current configuration of which MALDEF supported, here’s a chart:

County Latino % Doggett % ============================== Bexar 68.6% 53.75% Caldwell 54.1% 88.48% Comal 46.8% 74.92% Guadalupe 25.6% 70.24% Hays 51.5% 88.66% Travis 65.3% 93.21%

It’s true that Doggett completely dominated his home turf, but he won on Romo’s court as well. There were more total votes cast in Bexar than any other county; nearly half of all votes came from there. Doggett’s total in Bexar was more than Romo’s total in all six counties, and almost enough for a majority by itself. Point being, Doggett did pretty well in all parts of the district.

You may be looking at that “Latino %” for Travis County in that first chart and saying to yourself “Huh, I thought Travis was a lot whiter than that”. It is, actually, but remember that Travis County is split into five different Congressional districts. Guess which one the Latinos were clumped into?

Dist Total Pop Latino Pop Latino % ========================================= CD10 244,317 70,680 28.9% CD17 133,554 36,409 27.3% CD21 189,294 52,672 27.8% CD25 241,475 42,120 17.4% CD35 215,626 140,885 65.3% Total 1,024,626 342,766 33.5%

One of these things is not like the others. Now, all these figures are for straight up population, and before Greg Wythe‘s head explodes, I do understand the difference between “population” and “citizen voting age population (CVAP)”, which often is considerably lower for Latinos. That’s as granular as the TLC data is, so it’s the best I can do. It’s certainly possible that the Latino CVAP for CD35 is under 50%, and it’s certainly possible that the actual turnout for this election was even whiter than that, or that Doggett ran up the score in the white areas and treaded water elsewhere. Someone with access to all the relevant precinct data and the knowledge of each one’s demography will have to tackle that question, as it’s beyond my scope. But the point again is that Latino voters had the opportunity to elect the candidate of their choice. It’s hardly irrational or surprising that they went with the guy with seniority and a long record of supporting things they favor.

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3 Responses to How about those new Latino Congressional districts?

  1. Mainstream says:

    My head is also exploding.

    I am sure someone has CVAP data handy by county for a more accurate analysis. Only 44.4% of the registered voters in CD35 won by Doggett are Hispanic surnamed, which is a rough marker for CVAP. Assuming a greater tendency of Hispanic voters to participate in the Democrat primary, Hispanic voters are likely to be just over half of the potential Democratic primary electorate district-wide.

    Counting Hispanic representation by whether a person is Hispanic or not is offensive. Do Canseco and Flores count as Hispanic representatives to these counters? Gene Green?

    I would not rule out the possibility that the CD16 shifts changed the mix of Anglo and Hispanic voters and contributed to Reyes’ defeat. Some commentators reported that O’Rourke was decidedly not the preferred candidate of Hispanic voters, so you would have to concede that the new redistricting plan resulted in a district in which Hispanic voters are no longer able to (or did not for special reasons) elect their choice, so a VRA district was either weakened or simply did not perform as expected.

  2. Mainstream says:

    The proportionality argument offends me. First the true percentage of Hispanics in the adult citizen mix is fairly close to the number of districts in which Hispanic voters determine the outcomes. The number may be as low as 20%. But even if not proportional, all winner-take-all systems magnify the strength of a majority. So if Republicans were 60% of every district they would take not 60% of the congress seats, but 100%.

    Like Beto O’Rourke, other politicans in minority districts inspired by the VRA have won by putting together an overwhelming support of white/Anglo voters with a slice, but not a majority, of the black or Hispanic voters they now represent. Jackson Lee over Craig Washington, Jessica Farrar over Quintero, Garnet Coleman over Boney.

  3. Mainstream says:

    More on the proportionality argument:

    Hispanics are a majority of the voters of 6 of the 36 Texas Congressional districts. Hispanics comprise more than 35% of another 3 districts. Hispanics are only 21.6% of the voters of the state, but have more than a fair opportunity to decide election outcomes in 25% of the districts. 6 Hispanic persons serve presently in Congress, including two Hispanic Republicans who are not likely the preferred candidates of Hispanics in their districts, but receive some share of Hispanic support. Candidates preferrred by the Hispanic voters in their districts like Gene Green and perhaps others also provide a measure of representation for Hispanics.

    As a result of the recent elections we are likely to see 5 or 6 Hispanic Democrats preferred by local Hispanic voters, 1 or 2 Hispanic Republicans not preferred, 1 Anglo Democrat preferred, and 2 Anglo Democrats not preferred. A 21% share of the state’s congressmen would translate to 7 or 8.

    I would conclude “Hispanic representation” is fair and proportional to the share of Hispanic adult citizens as measured by voter registration.

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