Following every decennial federal census, the inevitable population shifts among states require the 435 districts that comprise the United States House of Representatives to be redrawn in order to ensure that they each contain the same number of constituents. The results of the most recent census reveal that at 3.9 million new residents, Texas experienced the largest population growth in the country, and will pick up an additional four seats in this year’s apportionment.
According to a December, 2010 article in the Washington Post, the details of those gains carry broad implications for the political landscape. Especially important will be the effect of a rapidly growing Latino community, as the lead demographer in Texas has indicated that 70 percent of the new 3.9 million are of Hispanic origin.
Although current predictions point to a Hispanic majority in at least two of the new districts, political forecasters differ on the precise effects of these increases. This past November, Republican Representative-Elect Blake Farenthold narrowly defeated long-time incumbent Solomon Ortiz to claim the seat in Texas’ 27th Congressional District. Mr. Farenthold claims that his win indicates that Latinos are becoming more willing to support conservative politicians that share their belief in “traditional values and… a hard day’s work.” However, Richard Murray, a Political Scientist at the University of Houston, points to past voting numbers to suggest an opposite trend. For instance, Mr. Murray explains that although Latinos only make up 25 percent of the statewide population, 75 percent of Latinos who went to the polls in the last election cycle voted for Democrats. If one looks at the voting numbers in other states with large Hispanic populations, the results are very similar. For example, in California Latino
voters recently selected Democratic Senate and Gubernatorial candidates in percentages well over 60 percent.
If the latter trend is to be believed, Representative Charles Gonzalez of the 20th Congressional District thinks that there is one more thing to keep in mind. The congressional redistricting process is completed here at home by the Texas Legislature, which has been controlled by the Republicans since 2002. That is significant because they will also control the redistricting committee that will draw up the new districts, which according to Congressman Gonzalez could provide an opportunity to dilute these new votes that would likely go to Democrats.
Please check back as the redistricting process continues, because no matter how it ends, it will be very interesting to watch, and the results will be extremely important both for Texas and the nation.