» Chron: City Hall Latino win may end up as a loss instead (Rick Casey)
Worth bookmarking Casey's column for re-reading as the lawsuit round of redistricting heats up ...
... now that a number of maps have been produced, experts believe there is a good chance neither of the two new districts will elect a Hispanic to the council.
That would mean that rather than enhance Hispanic power, the expansion would actually dilute it. The two Hispanic council members would make up 18 percent of the council, rather than 22 percent.
The column focuses on Vidal Martinez's possible/likely efforts have either DOJ or the courts declare the At Large system of City Council governance at odds with the Voting Rights Act. It's worth watching for and considering. While I don't think the At Large members of council are necessarily serving the purpose that former Mayor Louie Welch intended (to ensure white control of City government), the effect is that it poses barriers to minority representation that don't exist in smaller districts. Namely, the ability to raise large sums of money. The draft map that Vidal presented offers a few highlights worth considering:
- It allows Kingwood and Clear Lake to be decoupled.
- It allows Montrose to more fully control a district.
- It allows a smaller Sharpstown/Gulfton district to be plurality Hispanic at the CVAP level (instead of being in third place as it is in the Jara map).
- It allows Hispanic precincts along the Ship Channel to be represented in a Hispanic district rather than by someone from Kingwood.
- It allows for a far stronger Asian district on the west side, with the CVAP share being over 25% Asian.
I've been pretty lukewarm to the idea in years past. But after looking at what becomes possible on the map, I'm a lot more receptive to the idea. That it would allow for the possibility of four Hispanics to be represented on City Council in the short term future is definitely a positive.
Aside from the issue of a 16SMD map, kudos to Casey for getting a quote out of Columbia Law School prof, Nathaniel Persily. Persily is the author of a particularly instructive amicus curiae in Bartlett v Strickland on what sort of data to look at in the creation of minority opportunity districts. His point, in nutshell form, is that any magic number is due to the circumstances. In short - it's complicated. The brief should be required reading for anyone that draws redistricting lines.
The Supreme Court case in question involved the treatment of minority coalition districts. It's a particularly useful case to read up on with regard to the argument over whether the loss of HD149 from Harris County represents a viable claim to being a VRA violation. The Supreme Court decided against the district in question and Persily's brief is viewed most favorably by those justices who dissented. But the details that he spells out are worth considering by anyone regardless of their views of the particular case.