Saturday, October 8, 2011

Were guidelines followed with the adopted Dallas City Council Map?

Five guidelines were adopted by the Dallas City Council for the 2011 Redistricting Process. The first three were regarding population equality, minority representation and continguity and compactness. It was stated that these “shall be applied as required by the U.S. Constitution, the Voting Rights Act, and other federal and state laws.” The stated goal in the guidelines was that "the voting strength of racial, ethnic, and language minorities in the districts should not be diluted by depriving minority voters of an equal opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice, such as by packing or fracturing districts."

In the eyes of this non-lawyer the first of these guidelines was followed. No map was accepted that did not meet the mathematical requirements of the first requirement for population equality.

The second requirement for minority representation was not met.  Dallas now has a new gerrymandered map that will do well if it produces a 50% minority council in a 71% minority city. The approved map has 6 districts (43%) that are majority white while only 34% of the voting age population is white. That same map has 4 districts (29%) wherein Hispanics are in the majority while Hispanics are 37% of the voting age population. Does it look like some "diluting" is happening? Another more compact map, rejected in the process, demonstrated that a map can be created wherein the potential for 71% of the council seats to be won by minorities exists.

The third requirement for contiguity and compactness was not met.  The chosen map required gerrymandering to avoid greater minority representation. The chosen map had an additional 40 miles of gerrymandering boundary lines.

The final two guidelines were listed as ones “which may be considered.” The first of them regarded “neutrality as to incumbents” with a very clear statement that “districts must not be configured for the purpose of either protecting or defeating an incumbent.” As is shown in the online video documentation of Redisstricting Commission discussions, and City Council discussions, and in the map itself, this guideline was not followed.

The second of these final “may be considered” guidelines was “communities of interest.” While this was the lowest priority guideline, it was the most often mentioned of the guidelines in the redistricting discussions. It appears “communities of interest” were used to avoid meeting the highest priority guidelines number two and three, certainly the more critical guidelines. More has been written elsewhere about this failure.

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