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The Mother of All Redistricting Hearings (Until the Next One)

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.

Fracking Asians

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.

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  1. H303 creates the highest Asian concentration of any of the proposed plans (least fracking).

    Single family residential areas such as 311 have such small populations (compare to 565 just to the west) that they have a relatively small overall impact on the population. The real problem is no one wants to address the mess that 131 and 146 have become as they keep getting extended to the west. So adding 311 seems like the least worst bad as 146 extends across the SW Freeway and you try to avoid forcing 131 even more extreme, and Gessner makes a clean boundary.

    If 131 and 146 were merged and then redivided on an east west basis, you would have to try keep 146 from becoming even more uncompact.

    If districts were based on registered voters like in Britain, there wouldn’t be the confusion between CVAP, VAP, and population. There is about a 2:1 ratio in CVAP between the district with the most potential voters and that with the least number of votes. And if registered voters were used, redistricting could happen on a continuing basis.

  2. The issue with 131 and 146 is evident in the CVAP demographics of southwest Houston, as seen here:

    In short, whatever district is the western half would not necessarily be a VRA-protected African-American seat. That’s part of a point I raised elsewhere on the blog about African-American districts likely losing a seat next decade, if not due to an election before then (though I doubt the latter will happen).

    The map may be messy for now, but the fight next decade should be even messier.

  3. But as 131 extends west it runs into 149, and is also forced northward by the slant of the county line, which forces 146 to extend northward. If you tried to bring both 146 and 131 through 133, they look even more ridiculous than they already are.

    That is what is forcing 146 northward into 137, and causing precincts like 311 being shifted into 146,

    Once you start arranging 131 and 146 so that they both remain plurality Black, you’re put race above everything else.

    An east/west split would still elect a Democrat, and probably a Black Democrat. But would probably be trending toward becoming more Hispanic. If you create 6 districts that are 40% Black and 40% Hispanic, you’re cracking the Hispanic population.

    If you can get some districts that are 30% Black and 60% Hispanic, then you can tweak the boundaries enough to flip them.

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