Population Boost Isn’t Giving Latinos an Edge in State Redistricting Plans

By Nadra Kareem Nittle

New American Media

Sept. 20, 2011

When the 2010 Census results came in, Latinos seemed poised to exert more political influence in the U.S. than ever before. In the past 10 years, the Hispanic population grew by 43 percent, more than quadruple the 9.7 percent growth rate for the country overall.

But as states from California to Nevada to Colorado and Texas map out new electoral districts—a once-a-decade process mandated by the U.S. Constitution to ensure that political boundaries reflect demographic shifts—Hispanics are being shortchanged, advocates argue. Although the Latino population surged by 15.2 million nationwide, its political power—as measured by the number of voting districts in which Hispanics are the majority—has remained stagnant in many states or even regressed.

Party politics and incumbents desperate to hold onto their seats are largely to blame, Latino advocates and analysts say.

“If tradition is a guide, this is a structure and process that favors incumbents,” says Juan Cartagena, president and general counsel of LatinoJustice PRLDEF (Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund). “They’re going to do their best to counter every little change in the status quo. When you juxtapose that with rapid Latino growth, the hardest thing is creating maps that reflect the geography and housing patterns of the people.”

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