Archives for category: African American
Today, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in gerrymandering cases from North Carolina and Virginia. Plaintiffs claim that GOP lawmakers in the two states excessively packed black voters into congressional and state legislative districts, thus diluting the influence of black voters. Attorneys for the majority lawmakers, in contrast, claim they are merely complying with provisions of the Voting Rights Act by creating majority-minority districts to enhance the representation of minority voters.
However the Court rules, it is important that context matters when drawing minority access districts. My colleagues (Will Hicks, Appalachian State; Carl Klarner, University of Florida; Seth McKee, Texas Tech) have a paper that examines the likelihood of electing African Americans to state legislatures, comparing the threshold of black voting age population needed to elect a black lawmaker in Southern and Non-Southern states over time. We also look across states within the South. Suffice to say, there’s a considerable difference across regions, and even within the South, of how packed a district needs to be in order for voters to have the ability to elect an African American to the state legislature.

We find that the black population threshold required for a Deep South (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina) state legislative district to elect a black lawmaker is significantly higher than the black population threshold in districts in Rim South or Non-South states. The figure below graphs the probability a district elects a black legislator conditional on region and the size of that district’s black population.

figure-6-hmks

The probability a district elects a black lawmaker in the Deep South (left panel) versus the Rim South (right panel) depends on the size of a district’s black population. Across the three decades for the given election periods, it is clear that black legislators are elected with smaller black populations in the Rim South relative to the Deep South.  In 1993-1995, for example, the probability that a Deep South district elects a black lawmaker reaches 0.5 (even odds) when the black population is between 54 and 55 percent. In that same period, the probability a district in the Rim South elects a black legislator reaches 0.5 when the black population is between 49 and 50 percent. This 5 percentage-point difference nearly doubles in 2003-2005 (52 to 53 percent for the Deep South versus 43 to 44 percent for the Rim South) and in 2013-2015 (48 to 49 percent for the Deep South versus 40 to 41 percent for the Rim South).

Beyond the pressing normative views regarding the broader political and representational implications of the relationship between majority-minority districts and black representation, our empirical analysis indicates an inexorable dynamic in party politics. Our findings leave no doubt that a considerable reduction in majority-minority state legislative district populations can be accomplished while ensuring black descriptive representation. In light of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which scrapped the federal enforcement of the Section 5 preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act, we expect in the next decennial round of redistricting most Democrats will push for a reduction in the size of minority populations in majority-minority districts, while almost every Republican will continue to insist that majority-black districts should remain as is, or better yet, contain even higher African-American populations.

As of yesterday evening, 1.15m votes have been cast in the three big SE Florida counties (so, excluding Monroe County).

There are 1.7m registered Democrats in these three Democratic-rich counties; that’s roughly 46% of the 3.7m registered voters as of October 1, 2016.

So far, Democrats have accounted for 50% of the total ballots cast (EIP and VBM). That’s a very good sign for the Clinton camp. NPAs, whose share of registered voters in the three populous counties is 27% of all registrants (slightly higher than the percentage of Republicans, at 25%), account for nearly 21% of total votes cast as of last night.  This is potentially good sign for Clinton. Why?  Because turnout of NPAs in SE Florida often is not very robust, but Clinton needs NPAs in the three counties because (as the chart below shows), the NPAs who have voted already are disproportionately more likely to be Hispanics.

Of the 234.5k NPAs who’ve already mailed in their ballots or voted in person, 42% are Hispanic, and polling suggests that Clinton is doing fine with Hispanics in SE Florida, even in Miami-Dade County.

Another good sign for Clinton is that black voters in the three counties have started to return their VBM and turn out during EIP.  Blacks make up slightly less than 19% of the registered voters in DAD, BRO, and PAL.  So far, they constitute slightly less than 18% of the total early (EIP and VBM) votes cat in SE Florida. Including today, there’s still 5 days left of early voting (including this coming Saturday and Sunday) to GOTV, so the dire warnings of low black turnout may be premature.

As I’ve said countless times, be careful reading early the early voting tea leaves…lots of voting left to be had in the Sunshine State.

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In light of several news articles that have reported the findings of a recent joint NCSL & PEW Report, “Who We Elect: The Demographics of State Legislatures,” I thought it might be useful to convey some points made by Dr. Carl Klarner regarding the inherent problem when comparing “average” state legislative racial and ethnic (and other socio-demographic data) with national averages.  As Klarner writes in his recent Report (p6),

“state level figures [should] always [be] weighted by state population when being averaged to the nation level. This is done to approximate the importance of a particular state legislative chamber….
The issue of weighting by population is especially relevant to assessing minority representation, as it makes a big difference. Reports of minority state legislators frequently state them as a percentage of all legislators in the country.17  It is also sometimes asserted that descriptive representation is lower in state legislatures than in the U.S. House. But it is important to take the varying size of state legislative districts into account. For example, there are currently 498 African-American state house members, or 9.2% of the 5,411 state house members in the United States. But African-American state house members actually represent 11.9% of the United States, if you factor in the size of the districts they represent. This is substantially closer to the 13.7% of the United States that is African-American.18  The simple reason for this is that Northeastern states, with unusually large state houses, have few African-Americans living in them. Looking at minority descriptive representation in this way gives us more insight into what types of electoral arrangements are conducive to the fair representation of racial minorities.”

I agree with Dr. Klarner. Weighting state legislators by population is essential when comparing national averages with minority representation across the 99 state legislative chambers.

According to the 2010-2014 5-year averages of the American Community Survey (ACS), conducted by the U.S. Census, African-Americans make up approximately 13.7% of the national population, Hispanics 16.9%, and Asians 5.9%.

According to Dr. Klarner, here are the percentages of current state legislators who are racial/ethnic minorities, unweighted v. weighted:

State House Members                   Unweighted                Weighted

  • African-American:                       9.2%                             11.9%
  • Latino                                           4.0%                               8.5%
  • Asians                                          1.5%                              2.3%

 

State Senators                                Unweighted                Weighted

  • African-American:                         8.3%                             10.1%
  • Latino                                           3.6%                               6.9%
  • Asians                                          1.7%                              1.9%

 

More later…

 

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