Today's the big day for redistricting legal wrangling. Follow Michael Li's live-tweeting for the play-by-play. I'm merely offering a few points of color commentary on points that I find interesting. So check back for the occasional update or two over the course of the day.
How southwest Houston gets carved up between HD137, HD149, and neighboring Fort Bend's HD26 is obviously Item #1 on my agenda. One point in particular has crept up in Plan H307, which is a proposed settlement plan by the Perez plaintiffs who didn't
sell out sign on with AG Abbott's draft.
Here are the precincts in the court's original HD137 (Plan H302) that have 20% or more Asians among 1-of-4 General Election voters. Highlighted is the one precinct left out of HD137 under the new Plan H307.
Pct Total Asian Asian-% H307 508 2,041 616 30.2% 137 507 1,173 338 28.8% 137 311 1,874 483 25.8% 146 487 1,830 451 24.6% 137 503 778 161 20.7% 137 781 2,305 459 19.9% 137
Precinct 311 in HD146 was certainly a feature of the state's original plan and one of the inhibitors of any final plan is that sticking closely to that plan is going to be viewed as a positive during this part of the process. But it's bad enough that the state's plan carves up the Asian community of SW Houston into four districts. Putting Precinct 311 back into HD137 (where it's been since 2002) would at least restore the core of the most heavily Asian precincts within two districts on the southwest side.
Fair Math for Fair Park (And Beyond)
A tweet from Michael Li describing some of the arguments about the competing House District plans for Dallas County ...
Anglos are 33% of Dallas Co. pop. Should control 4.46 of 14 seats. Instead control 8 because of minority fragmentation.
Welcome to the post-immigration-boom debate over representational fairness. Its not clear whether Michael is stating this based on the total population demographics or if he's repeating a point raised in the court where he's tweeting from. Why there's no hashtag for such a thing is beyond me. But one of the fascinating things to see in action at either redistricting trials or post-rollout arguments among legislators/city council members/whatever ... is the way total population, voting age population, and Citizen Voting Age population counts are used interchangeably depending on who it helps.
In this case, Dallas' total population of Anglos is accurately stated as 33.1%. And for a county with 14 seats, that represents 4.6 seats. But as a matter of Citizen Voting Age Population, Dallas County is 49.8% Anglo. That represents 7.0 seats. I've previously pointed out this matter with regard to Harris County African-American State Rep districts. It's also an issue that's challenging, in particular, for Hispanic representation. And that's a point I feel like I've lived out with regard to Hispanic districts for Houston city council.
The point isn't necessarily that either should or should not be used as a concrete formula. The total population numbers do give a good guideline for what's fair, while the CVAP numbers give a good guideline for what's doable. An example from the Houston Community College round of redistricting demonstrates that three Hispanic candidates can get elected out of a situation where the CVAP calculation suggests two are viable. Sometimes, doing what's fair requires a bit more work than would be deemed "easy". Just look at Houston City Council ... CVAP calculations would suggest that the city have 2.7 districts out of 11. We have two. As in two point zero. Harris County numbers are similar: 25% of the county's CVAP is Hispanic. How many Hispanic districts were drawn by commissioner's court? Zero. The side of all of this that I find most troubling is the use of the diffusion of Hispanic population as an excuse to avoid drawing what's fair. Neither side of the spectrum is innocent of that.
The way the different numbers are used isn't exactly one of the points about redistricting that I'd describe as being for mass consumption. Its as wonky as it gets for the subject. Still, you'd expect to see the use of them get better by the time the debate is moved to a courthouse where the witnesses are supposed to be "expert" and the lawyers are supposed to be ... well heck, the lawyers are just going to be lawyers.