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Where Do We Draw The Line? Hispanic Opportunity Districts in Dallas, Texas After the 2020 Census

Wednesday, March 22, 2023


Astrid Fuentes

Staff Reporter (2022-2023)


Every ten years, the United States undergoes a national census with the goal of counting every individual within the country. Even an unprecedented pandemic did not prevent the U.S. from fulfilling its constitutional requirement of completing the 2020 Census.


Why is the census important?


The Census captures a snapshot of the country every decade; the data reflects various characteristics including the size, racial makeup, education and income of our population. The Census data plays a key role in shaping the future by determining the political representation in Congress, state legislatures and local governments for the following ten years.¹ This process of apportionment and redistricting is naturally political. Congress passed the Voter Rights Act of 1965 (“V.R.A.”) in response to historical political and socioeconomic discrimination and obstruction of minority voters.² According to section 2 of the V.R.A., any practice or procedure that denies a voter equal access to the political process due to their race, color, or language is prohibited.³ To show that a voter’s rights have been violated, the court looks for discriminatory intent or discriminatory results. Discriminatory results can indicate to the court that a minority’s voting rights have been violated, such as in redistricting that has weakened or canceled out the voting power of a minority community.


What is a Majority-Minority Opportunity District?


One method the V.R.A. can use to protect minority voters against voting dilution is creating minority-opportunity districts.A majority-minority district is a legislative district where a majority of the population is a member of a specific minority group and would likely elect their preferred candidate.To draw an effective majority-minority opportunity district, the minority group’s voting age population (“VAP”) must make up fiftypercent or more of the district.


What is a Hispanic Opportunity District?


An effective Hispanic opportunity district is a majority-minority district that also factors in the citizenship status of the voting population in the district.¹⁰ The district must be drawn to have at least a fifty percent citizen voting age population because the purpose of a majority-minority district is to give the minority community an opportunity to elect their preferred candidate through voting.¹¹


How Do I Know If My District Should Be A Majority-Minority Opportunity District?


If someone suspects racial voter dilution that violates section 2 of the V.R.A., there is a two-part analysis for determining whether the opportunity district protection is necessary.


First Analysis: The Gingles Factors¹²

  • Is the minority group in the district large enough and geographically compact enough (geographically close in proximity) to be a majority?

  • Is the minority group politically cohesive or united?

  • Does the white majority vote as a block in a way that allows it to select its candidate over the minority preferred candidate?

If those elements are met, the following non-exhaustive factors will be relevant to the court’s decision as to whether to find a V.R.A. violation.


Second Analysis: Totality of the Circumstances¹³

  • Was there any history of official discrimination in the district that impacted the rights of the minority members to participate in the political process, and to what extent?

  • What is the extent of racially polarized voting in the district?

  • What is the extent of anti-voting procedures used by the district that may increase the likelihood of discrimination against the minority group?

  • Is there a candidate slating process, and was the minority group was allowed to participate?

  • To what extent are minority members of the district impacted by educational, employment, and health discrimination that prevents them from participating in the political process

  • Has there been any public or subtle racial campaigning?

  • What is the extent that members of the minority community were elected in the district?

  • Is there is a significant lack of responsiveness by the elected officials to the particular needs of the minority group?

  • What is the proportionality of minority voters’ representation in single member districts?¹⁴

Dallas County Today


After the 2020 Census results, Dallas demographics showed that Hispanic residents made up 42.3% of Dallas residents compared to 28.1% non-Hispanic White residents, 22.9% non-Hispanic Black residents, and 6.7% non-Hispanic “Other” residents.¹⁵ Section 2 of the V.R.A. requires the member of minority-majority districts be “substantially proportional¹⁶ to the minority voters’ percentage of the population. It does not require perfect proportionality or the maximum number of minority-majority districts.¹⁷ The 42.3% Hispanic population would translate to a maximum number of five to six Hispanic-opportunity Dallas City Council districts. Currently, 21% or three of the fourteen seats are currently held by Hispanic elected officials in predominantly Hispanic districts (District 2-Old East Dallas, District 5-Pleasant Grove and District 6-West Dallas).


District 1 (North & Central Oak Cliff) presents various characteristics worthy of analysis of compliance with Section 2 of the V.R.A. per the framework outlined above. Prior to 2013, District 1 had a long history of electing Hispanic City Council members.¹⁸ District 1’s current borders were drawn following the 2010 Census; though the district was drawn with about 73% voting-age Hispanic residents, there was a concern about the strong voting block of non-Hispanic White voters concentrated in North Oak Cliff.¹⁹ The district has not been able to elect a minority-preferred candidate since new borders were approved in 2011.²⁰ Following the 2020 Census, District 1 maintained its same boundaries for the next ten years.

 

Sources:


[1] U.S. Const. art. I, § 2.

[2] Shelby Cty., Ala. v. Holder, 570 U.S. 529, 536 (2013).

[3] 52 U.S.C. § 10301(a) (2018).

[4] Veasey v. Abbott, 830 F.3d 216, 235–36 (5th Cir. 2016).

[5] See Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 47 (1986).

[6] 42 U.S.C. § 1973(a) (current version at 52 U.S.C. § 10301(a)).

[7] Voinovich v. Quilter, 507 U.S. 146, 149 (1993).

[8] Section 2 of the V.R.A. also prohibits the dilution of the minority vote by packing or cracking. Packing is the concentration of too many minority voters into one district thus limiting their influence elsewhere. Cracking splits minority voting communities across multiple districts and weakens their ability to elect their preferred candidates. Julia Kirschenbaum & Michael Li, Gerrymandering Explained, BRENNAN CTR. FOR JUSTICE (Aug. 10, 2021), https://www.brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/gerrymandering-explained.

[9] Bartlett v. Strickland, 556 U.S. 1, 19–20 (2009) (“The special significance, in the democratic process, of a majority means it is a special wrong when a minority group has 50 percent or more of the voting population and could constitute a compact voting majority but, despite racially polarized bloc voting, that group is not put into a district.”).

[10] League of United Latin Am. Citizens v. Perry, 548 U.S. 399, 429 (2006).

[12] Thornburg v. Gingles, 478 U.S. 30, 47 (1986).

[13] Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1982, S. Rep. No. 97-417, at 28–29 (1982), reprinted in 1982 U.S.C.C.AN. 177, 206–207.

[14] Johnson v. De Grandy, 512 U.S. 997, 1000 (1994).

[15] Dallas Area Demographics, DALLAS ECON. DEV., https://www.dallasecodev.org/490/Demographics (last updated Mar. 4, 2022).

[16] De Grandy, 512 U.S. at 1024.

[17] Id. at 1017.

[18] Keri Mitchell, How did city council redistricting affect Oak Cliff?, ADVOCATEMAG (Oct. 6, 2011), https://oakcliff.advocatemag.com/2011/10/how-did-city-council-redistricting-affect-oak-cliff/.

[20] Rachel Stone, Chad West wins reelection to Dallas City Council District 1, voter turnout lacking, ADVOCATEMAG (May 3, 2021), https://oakcliff.advocatemag.com/2021/05/chad-west-wins-reelection-to-dallas-city-council/.

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