In doing a little research around the state, Moore County turns up among the Top 5 Texas counties in terms of Asian percentage of total population (6%). The 2000 Census showed Moore County with all of 173 Asians, representing 0.9% of the county’s population. A couple of things I’ve started doing more recently that adds some context to this is to rework some of the coding that I’d done for Census Tracts and blockgroups to also work for Census blocks. In the case of smaller counties such as Moore, this is particularly helpful since even blockgroups can obfuscate entire towns and include a lot of farm land or other unpopulated areas. What makes Moore County compelling to me is that it’s a good snapshot of how being “minority majority” doesn’t really mean as much as some of the prognosticators might have thought 10-20 years ago.
Moore County Demographics
Total Pop. Voting Age Pop CVAP
21,904 | 14,905 | 10,885
Anglo 8,370 (38.2%) | 6,615 (44.4%) | 6,530 (60.0%)
Hispanic 11,542 (52.7%) | 7,014 (47.0%) | 4,015 (36.9%)
Afr-Am 287 ( 1.3%) | 218 ( 1.5%) | 114 ( 1.0%)
Asian 1,323 ( 6.0%) | 783 ( 5.3%) | 54 ( 0.5%)
The county isn’t a perfect microcosm of the state by any means: the African-American population is too low and the Asian population is too high. The CVAP conversion rates for both Hispanic and Asian populations are also skewed. In the case of the Hispanic population, the CVAP conversion shows 43% of VAP Hispanics as non-citizen (slightly above the state average of 40.2%), while the Asian CVAP conversion shows that a mere 7% of VAP Asians are non-citizen (far worse than the state average).
Politically, the county is solid Republican, having voted nearly 80% for Rick Perry and John McCain. There is one Hispanic County Commissioner from Pct. 1, which is 35% SSVR and also 80% Perry/McCain. The Commissioner was elected out of a contested 2008 GOP primary against an Anglo challenger. That alone is enough to muddle much of the understanding we get from more urban and suburban counties.
Turnout differentials are a big part of the high GOP vote. Precinct 402 encompasses much of the town of Cactus. It is 88% Spanish Surname Voters Registered and has 593 registered voters out of a total population of over 3,400. Turnout was a mere 12% in 2010 and 35% in 2008. The precinct voted 66% for Bill White and 72% for Barack Obama. Precinct 202, on the other hand, is 14% SSVR and has 2,050 registered voters out of a total population of 2,746. Turnout was 49% in 2010 and 68% in 2008. The precinct voted 83% for Perry and 87% for McCain. Theoretically, if you’re looking for a location where Voter Registration and GOTV work can make a substantial impact on the electorate, Moore County would be a very cost-effective place to do a field test. There are less than 10,000 registered voters in the entire county.
Demographically, the town may have a bit more history worth diving into, as a 2007 Washington Post article refers to two time periods that suggest: a) that the county’s immigrant population was cut by an ICE raid at the local Swift meat packing plant that employs much of the town of Cactus, and b) the Vietnamese population that seems low in the 2000 Census counts may be an anomaly since they note an initial migration to the area in the 1970s. That the town’s largest landowner is Vietnamese is pretty suggestive of that earlier migration, also.
Indeed, the town of Cactus (home of the Swift plant) registers as 19% Asian and 74% Hispanic as of the 2010 Census. The demographic majority map covering just Cactus looks as follows. Again, standard color-coding applies, with brown being Hispanic majority, red being Anglo majority, yellow being no majority, and the more recent addition of green being Asian majority.
In terms of a Kansas-esque meaning of all of this, I’ve always hated the stereotypical logic that people vote against their economic self-interest and that something should be done about that. So, title of the post aside, I’m not sure there’s a grand political theory that illuminates the challenge of what it takes to see a location such as Moore County vote any other way. While there may certainly be room for Voter Registration and GOTV work to make up some of the difference, the fact that the county is relatively isolated probably makes such work a non-starter.
But looking at the factors that take a “minority majority” area from something that would conceivably offer hope to Democrats to a reality that votes 80% Republican is something worth closer attention. Demographics may ultimately point toward a destiny, but demographics alone aren’t destiny. I’ve probably beaten a dead horse over the fact that citizenship rates now are substantially lower than they have been in the past and that understanding should certainly add some skepticism that just because there’s a lot of Hispanics in a district, that doesn’t mean it’s a “Hispanic district”.
Electorates are now further removed from the overall population in terms of their demographic and voting-preference makeup. And even those electorates can now be expected to behave quite differently depending on when the election is. The differences seen in 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010 should serve as examples of this. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing – or even whether it’s something worth fixing or appreciating – I leave to you to decide. But, if nothing else, it may be time to replace the anticipation of “minority majority” status with something else.