Tag Archives: Texas gerrymandering

Federal Court: Texas Redistricting Scheme Intentionally “Cracked And Packed” Minority Vote

You gotta hand it to politicians… if there’s one thing they know how to do, it’s getting reelected. Part of the reason I suppose you could say the same for any politician halfway worth their salt.

Those elections are certainly how Texas perseveres as a reliably “Red State” even as our demographics have shifted so dramatically that many folks are puzzled as to how there are so few competitive races in this Republican dominated state.

But for those that have been paying attention, the answer to that conundrum is clear… illegal redistricting.   As James Barragan with the Dallas Morning News reports, one Federal Court is sending state leaders a clear message…

Texas statehouse districts drawn by the Republican-led legislature in 2011 intentionally diluted the votes of minorities, violating the U.S. Constitution and parts of the Voting Rights Act, a federal court ruled Thursday.

In a 2-1 ruling, a three-judge panel in San Antonio found that the maps gave Republicans an advantage in elections and weakened the voting strength of minority voters. House Districts in Dallas and Tarrant counties were among those in which the judges ruled minority voters had seen their clout weakened.

The ruling is yet another blow to the state in its six-year legal battle over the redrawing of the maps. Last month, the same court found that the state’s congressional maps were drawn with intent to discriminate against minority voters and invalidated three congressional districts. And last week, a federal judge ruled that the state’s voter ID law was written with intent to discriminate.

“The evidence of the mapdrawing process supports the conclusion that mapdrawers were motivated in part by an intent to dilute minority voting strength,” U.S. District Judges Xavier Rodriguez and Orlando Garcia wrote in the 171-page ruling. “Discussions among mapdrawers demonstrated a hostility to creating any new minority districts as those were seen to be a loss of Republican seats, despite the massive minority population growth statewide.”

Here is the full court ruling, for those interested.

Redistricting is a very complicated process, but here are the basics.  After each Federal Census (every 10 years), the Texas Legislature is required to divide the state by election districts which most closely match the shifts that have occurred.

It’s definitely no secret that the state of Texas grew from 2000 to 2010, as was reflected in the 2010 Census.  But what many folks may not know is that growth was overwhelmingly led by one group:  the Latino community.  Of the 4.2 million residents Texas gained between 2000 and 2010, nearly 2.8 million of them were Latino.  That is 65 percent.. a clear majority of population within the state.

Texas Latino Growth

We also know that much of this growth occurred in occurred the state’s largest metropolitan areas.  So Texas didn’t just grow in population, it also became more urban and more suburban.

As a result of Texas’ enormous growth, the state was allotted 4 additional seats in the United States House of Representatives, increasing our overall representation in the House to 36 members.

Yet when creating new Congressional Districts, the communities holding the population gains were last in line to be ensured representation. Two ways Texas Republicans used to achieve this dilution?  Cracking and Packing.

With Cracking, you dilute an area’s voting power by slicing up its Congressional Representation.  Urban residents in Austin certainly share some common concerns in Austin, but they are cracked between 5 different members of Congress.

Gerrymandering 101: Cracking

With Packing, you take certain groups and shove them all together in the same district them together in a way which undermines to their voting power.  District 35 is a great example of this, where the minority communities of Austin and San Antonio are cracked, then knit together in something of an awkward dumbbell.

Gerrymandering 101: Packing

Cracking and packing often work in tandem.  As an example, both Austin and San Antonio have sizable Latino populations.  But if they’re in different cities, what would they have to do with each other?  Under Texas’ redistricting scheme one chunk of the Latino population from San Antonio is packed in with minorities in East Austin, while other district residents are connected by a small sliver along Interstate 35.

It through techniques like Cracking and Packing that Texas Republicans were able to do what is called Gerrymandering… they drew districts which are manipulated to enhance the strength of rural and suburban (mostly) white voters, while undermining the rapidly growing (mostly) minority vote.

In the present political era, it’s tough to tell how such rulings would be enforced by Attorney General Sessions.  But whatever accountability may be lacking in the Federal Government, we can take notice and make legislators pay the consequences in 2018 and 2020.

Dallas Republican Candidate Reveals GOP Suppression Strategy, Racist Comments

Words matter, especially to candidates during an election.  And sometimes what matters the most are not the promises that the candidate makes to different audiences, but what they’re caught saying when they think no one else is listening.  It made all the difference in 2012, that’s for sure.

For one Republican hopeful up in the Big D, we’re about to find out what his ‘hot mic’ moment does for him. Here’s more on the bombshell from Gromer Jeffers Jr. of the Dallas Morning News

Republican Ron Natinsky hopes residents in a southern Dallas congressional district “spend their food stamp money” on Election Day, instead of voting.

Natinsky, a candidate for Dallas County Judge, made the remark last November during a meeting of the Coppell Republican Club. His comments appear at around the 40:24 mark on the video.

“We don’t want to motivate her voters,” Natinsky said. “What we want them to think is ‘There’s no reason. She doesn’t have an opponent. I don’t need to go to the polls. I’ll go spend my food stamp money at the grocery store, or whatever, you know, on Election Day.’”

[…]

Johnson’s district is made up overwhelmingly of minority voters, and she is the first black lawmaker elected from North Texas. Her district supported the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama at a higher rate than any in the country, Johnson has said.

[…]

Natinsky is running for county judge against incumbent Democrat Clay Jenkins. Since Republicans in Dallas County generally fare better in mid-term elections than contests in presidential election years, the race for county judge could be competitive.

So in his appearance at the Coppell Republican Club, Natinsky urged fellow Republicans not a slate a candidate against Johnson because it would hurt the chances of other Republicans on the ballot.

That’s because Johnson, one of the most influential elected officials in North Texas, is in a heavily Democratic district, where it is virtually impossible for a Republican candidate to win. Natinsky theorizes that if Johnson is unopposed in the general election, she would not mount a serious campaign and base Democrats would not vote.

“We don’t need another five of ten thousand of her people going to the polls,” Natinsky said.

You can also watch the video over at DMN.

There’s no denying that Natinsky’s comments are offensive and racist.  We all know who has talking about when he says “food stamp voters”.

But the even bigger story here?  He revealed that the Texas GOP uses gerrymandering to not only ensure party control in certain races, but to depress overall voter turnout as well.

Basically it works like this… voters pay more attention when there is a contested race, for a variety of reasons.  The two candidates spend more money on TV ads and signs, they knock on more doors and make more phone calls, and of voters get to hear both sides of the issue instead of just one.  As a result, turnout is generally going to be higher in a competitive district because there is more interest in the ballot.  But if the district is not competitive, voters have little reason to wonder about, or influence the results of the race.  That means that voters are more likely to stay home, and not make their voices heard for other races.  If Congresswoman Johnson had an opponent, it would motivate turnout for her race, but many of those same voters would likely support candidates like Clay Jenkins, Leticia Van de Putte and Wendy Davis.

So there you have it.  Ron Natinsky and other Republicans know this for a fact.. if more people voted, Texas would be a competitive state.  If you ever had any doubt about this, go ahead and put it to rest.

And please VOTE.  Let’s use Natinsky’s comments as motivation to make sure that he loses his race.