America’s founders believed our representative form of government could only work if equal representation was guaranteed. It’s clear from the wording of the Constitution, and it’s the sole constitutional basis for the decennial census; they’d surely be horrified to see that today it’s primarily touted as a tool for reallocating resources that have been taken from taxpayers.
So it’s safe to assume that those who designed our system of government would be similarly appalled at the way political districts are delineated, with the full consent — endorsement, even — of officials at all levels of government.
The most obvious case in point is our own state of Texas, which seems to be the nation’s laboratory for determining what partisan measures will pass judicial review.
State lawmakers have released preliminary maps of new political districts, from seats in Congress to the state legislature, judicial districts and other political offices. Once lawmakers officially approve the redistricting bills, we expect many will be challenged in court. They always are, and with good reason: they’re discriminatory and don’t accurately represent the state’s population.
For example, Texas’ growth over the past 10 years bring it two new congressional seats. Demographers note that nearly 95% of that growth came from Latino, Asian and Black residents. The new districts, however, greatly decrease the influence of those demographic groups.
Most notable is the fact that Texas’ Latino population is virtually equal to the Anglo population — 39.3% to 39.8%, respectively, and Latinos are expected to become the state’s largest ethnic group within two years. People of color now comprise 60% of the state’s population. However, of the state’s 36 current seats in the U.S. House, 22 have White majorities, eight are predominantly Hispanic, one is mostly Black and the rest have no clear majority. In the proposed new districts, 23 will be mostly White, seven Hispanic and the rest have no clear majority. No district will carry a Black majority.
Ideally, ethnicity shouldn’t matter. However, it’s clear that the Republican-dominated Legislative Redistricting Board drew the districts along racial lines.
Defending the districts drawn after the 2010 enumeration, state officials said their goal was to gain political advantage for the Republican Party, and they focused on the results of individual election precincts; the fact that those results reflected ethnic grouping was coincidental.
The Supreme Court has no problem with it.
But discrimination is discrimination, whether it’s based on race, religion or political preference. The very fact that state officials acknowledged their intention to increase the influence of one group and decrease others violates our constitutional mandate of equal representation of the laws.
It’s naive to think that current Supreme Court will find fault with current redistricting strategies that favor the Republican Party. Nor is it a given that all ethnic minorities support liberal ideals and candidates. However, if historic voting trends hold true and minority growth continues to dominate, discriminatory redistricting might prove not only immoral and unconstitutional, but possibly futile.