Wednesday, August 24, 2011

More Compact Districts & Stronger Minority Representation

The 8/23/11 Dallas City Council Redistricting meeting was a very pleasant surprise.

I had anticipated a short meeting. I signed up to speak upon arrival to thank the Commissioners for their work. Then I began to be greeted by people who were present to speak out in support of Plan 3 and discovered many promising facts.  People wanted the more compact plan found in Plan 3.  The Commissioners had received 250 emails from citizens supporting Plan 3.  The people were angry that Plan 3 had been voted down. About 30 speakers had already signed up by email to speak, most of them in support of Plan 3. Due to the volume of speakers the Commission limited the time to 2 minutes instead of the normal 3 minutes.

The public speakers addressed multiple issues related to compactness, the gerrymandering remaining in Plan 16, and the way Plan 3 would treat their own neighborhoods better.  It was discovered that while only 1 commissioner had voted for Plan 3 as their first choice at the last meeting, 12 others had voted for Plan 3 as their second choice. It was argued it should have been the second choice. There was anger expressed regarding the politics involved in plan selection. It was very reassuring to listen to the testimony.

After the public testimony, the possibility of submitting the other two plans as second and third choices, along with the first choice of Plan 16, was discussed. It was ultimately voted down. Most of the evening was spent considering amendments to both Plan 16 and Plan 5 before the final vote. The meeting did not end until about 11:30 PM.

It appears that the potential for greater progress, than appeared possible when Plan 3 lost the first place vote three days ago, may have been revived. It would be a dream come true if Dallas could get rid of the 35 miles of gerrymandered boundary lines that remain in Plan 16 and improve minority representation in the process.

No matter what happens, we need to celebrate the progress. It appears that Dallas will certainly get rid of 125 miles of the current 609 miles of boundary lines between city council districts. It is estimated there are now just over 160 miles of such boundary lines that only exist due to gerrymandering. Thus we will have eliminated about 78% of those lines with Plan 16. That is wonderful progress!

But, while the final version of Plan 16 sent to the mayor, cPlan16d, is an improvement for minority representation in general, cPlan16d does not improve the potential for minority representation as much as Plan 3. This is especially true in the potential for Black representation. While both plans have three majority Black districts, in this last version of Plan 16 the average of the three Black voting age population (VAP) percentages for these districts is only 59.69%. In Plan 3 this same average is 63.06%, over three percentage points higher!

The weakest of the three Black majority districts in Plan 16 has a VAP percentage of only 50.40%. In Plan 3 the weakest of the three Black majority districts is significantly stronger: 55.42% !  Given the potential population movements happening, the potential for such a low number as 50.40% to move below 50% and weaken is very high.  The strongest possible districts are needed!

A similar weakness in the Hispanic districts is shown by comparing Plan 3 with Plan 16. Both have 5 Hispanic majority districts, but the average VAP percentage is .75% (¾ of one percent) higher in Plan 3 than in Plan 16. The significance of this grows in that the weakest VAP percentage district in Plan 3 is over 3.5 percentage points higher than the two weakest districts in Plan 16. The difference between a 57.63% district and a 53.39% district can be significant when you allow for residents unable to vote due to citizenship.

A potentially very significant difference between Plan 16 and Plan 3 is that Plan 16 only has one minority opportunity district.  It has a minority population of only 57.76%. Plan 3 has two minority opportunity districts, both of which have higher minority populations (70.09% and 58.86%) than the one opportunity district in Plan 16. 

The final difference between Plan 16 and Plan 3 is that the sixth strongest Hispanic district in Plan 3 has a Hispanic VAP percentage of 42.61%. This is significantly stronger than Plan 16 with a sixth strongest Hispanic district that has a Hispanic VAP percentage over 9 percentage points lower: only 33.36%.

Remember: these achievements in stronger minority representation in Plan 3 over Plan 16 are all made while also achieving significantly more compact districts! Plan 3 eliminates 31 more miles of gerrymandered Dallas City Council boundary lines than does Plan 16.

This indicates gerrymandering can be used to lessen minority representation.  (Click here to compare Map 3 and Map 16 more completely to form your opinions based on the shapes of the districts alone.)

Lessen gerrymandering and our City Council will more accurately reflect our city with an ever greater number of people stepping forward to serve. Campaign contributions will be less of a factor for potential leaders to consider.

It is a joy to be involved in a competition between two plans in the Dallas City Council Redistricting race that are both fighting to provide the highest minority representation possible in Dallas. The power of our democracy is being shown!   No matter which plan wins, we all win!

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