In his post “Don’t Believe the Reapportionment Hype,” The National Journal’s ‘On the Trail’ columnist Reid Wilson adds some clarity to the discussion about recently-released decennial census data and Dems prospects in the reapportionment process:
…No one should believe that Democrats have had their heads handed to them this decade….Dems Instead, the reapportionment process foretells a changing dynamic of American politics, one in which minority voters will play an increasingly important and influential role. The eight states that will gain House seats this year appear to give Republicans an advantage, but, in truth, the redistricting playing field is far more level.
Eight states–Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington state–will gain representation when the 113th Congress convenes in 2013, figures released on Tuesday by the Census Bureau showed. On its face, those states appear to give Republicans an advantage; they hold complete control of redistricting in all but Arizona and Washington, where bipartisan commissions will draw the new lines.
The outsized growth of those eight states, however, has come largely from dramatic increases in minority populations, particularly among Hispanic voters. Although exact data on race collected by the 2010 census won’t be available for a few months, trends and the American Community Survey, conducted by the Census Bureau, demonstrate that those predisposed toward voting for Democrats have constituted the bulk of the new population boosts.
Wilson goes on to note that minorities are already more than a quarter of the population in 6 of the 8 aforementioned red states, including “a whopping 43 percent in Texas” and the section 5 preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act will insure that they are fairly represented. He sees demographic trends in ‘perennial battlegrounds’ Florida, Nevada and Arizona favoring Democrats, and adds that GOP strategists are now “worrying about their chances for maintaining their grip on Texas’s Electoral College votes.”
The overall political impact of exploding minority population growth, says Wilson, depends to a great extent on exactly where (in which districts) the minorities are now living, and that Census data has not yet been released. But I’d like to see some figures on the frequency of Hispanic and African American residential changes before placing too much stock in snapshot analysis of where they are at any given moment.
Ironically, notes Wilson, “…In the long run, the voters who guaranteed Sun Belt states their new congressional seats will likely turn those states, slowly but surely, into promising Democratic targets.”
Wilson flags a nifty treat at the end of his post, this link to The Redistricting Game, a fun, educational game which teaches participants the tricky complexity of drawing your own districts.