TEXAS REDISTRICTING & ELECTION LAW

Updates about ongoing redistricting litigation in the Lone Star State and coverage of election law more generally. This website's goal is to try to make sure the redistricting process and litigation over voting law is as transparent and accessible as possible to the public. Hopefully, it will be of some use to a broad range of interested parties, both lawyers and non-lawyers. Have questions, comments, suggestions, additional content, or a redistricting joke (or two)? Feel free to contact me: Michael Li, michael.li@mlilaw.com, 202.681.0641.
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The title states the obvious, but sometimes a data source can confirm something you know in new and unexpected ways.

Take a piece out today by the University of Virginia’s Larry Sabato, which found that Republicans hold 73 of the country’s 100 geographically largest congressional districts and that Democrats hold 87 of 100 most geographically compact districts.

The piece is worth a read for its own merits, but one striking data point is that of the 13 seats on the most compact list currently held by Republicans, four of them (31% of the total) are in Texas.

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Texas also accounts for its share of the geographically large seats held by Democrats, taking 4 of 27.

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Now is this just trivia - fodder for the ultimate game of ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ Or does it tell us something about Texas?

Actually, there are a couple of gleanings.

Let’s start with the Democratic seats - all of which are Hispanic opportunity seats in South and Southwest Texas. 

For all the buzz about the Hispanic vote in Texas, the Sabato article confirms that Texas’ Hispanic population is different in one respect - a large percentage of it (enough, in fact, to support four congressional districts) resides in spread out, less densely populated areas and smaller urban centers.

To be sure, some of those districts have anchors in bigger urban areas, but that a substantial portion of the state’s Hispanic population lives doesn’t live in the state’s mega cities makes the state (and presumably the voters in those sprawling districts) different from say, California, Illinois, or New York, where Hispanic districts are, as a rule, more compact and more urban.

It also probably makes the four districts quite a bit different from more urban Hispanic districts in Texas like CD-29 in Houston or CD-35 in Central Texas.

All this may seem like a ‘duh’ point, yet it never fails to amaze how many generalizations about the state’s Hispanic population come from people on both sides of the partisan divide.

As for the compact Republican seats - all of which are in the DFW Metroplex or Greater Houston - that, likewise, probably speaks both to polarization of voting patterns among the state’s Anglo voters and lackadaisical turnout by non-Anglo voters in inner-ring suburbs. That and the particularly effective gerrymandering of Texas’ urban areas.

Again, perhaps none of this may be particularly new or insightful - but sometimes a data source offers a new way of looking at an old issue.