Hispanics and redistricting

Politics is a sexy business. Governing is not. Voters salivate over snarky commercials and rousing speeches, but when it comes time to talk about things like the Democrats’ lame attempt at an absolute power grab through gerrymandering, they tend to switch the channel. No matter how mundane, redistricting is incredibly important. Those who care at all about what’s happening with the state and local government during the next 10 years should probably pay a little more attention.

In an attempt to ensure a decade of Democratic control of our Legislature, Democrats have done a bang-up job of gerrymandering the districts and ignoring provisions in the Voting Rights Act that expressly prohibit the fracturing of minority communities.

“[The Democrats’] plan will continue to keep the minority population silenced and unrepresented,” states Elyse Monroy, state chair of Nevada Latinos for Prosperity. “The legislative plan they have drawn drives wedges into the Hispanic community and ensures we will always be in the minority in future elections. By breaking our cohesive community into pieces, they are putting smaller groups of Hispanics into districts where the majority of the electorate is white. They are making it more difficult for us to elect Hispanic candidates to represent our community.”

In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act to ensure that states did not use the redistricting process as a means to dilute the voting strength of minority communities. The Voting Rights Act works to protect against two types of redistricting—fracturing and packing. Fracturing occurs when a group of minority voters is broken off from a concentration of minority voters and added to a large majority white district. Packing occurs when a minority group is concentrated into one or more districts so that the group constitutes an overwhelming majority in those districts, thus minimizing the number of districts in which the minority could elect candidates of their choice.

“The Latino population historically doesn’t vote for one party,” emphatically states Monroy. “The Latino community turned out in 2000 and 2004 for George Bush and in 2008 for Barack Obama. Nevada Latinos are tired of empty promises, and this redistricting plan presented by the Democrats seeks to keep us in the permanent minority.”

The Democrats view it a bit differently. Democratic activist Shaun Gray says, “Republicans want Nevada’s Latinos to believe the only way they can have a Latino representative elected is if that individual comes from a district with a Latino majority, and that just isn’t the case. If that were true, Nevada wouldn’t have a Latino governor. This is just another attempt by the Republicans to tie up the redistricting process.”

Gray is wrong. We have the Voting Rights Act for a reason. Our laws call for equal representation, and that’s what the Republican plans provide. The problems with the Democrats’ redistricting plan are much more systemic. Instead of giving Hispanics one congressional district in which they constitute a majority and are able to actively work to elect their own candidate, the Democratic congressional plan divides Hispanics into four districts where the majority of the population in each district is white. Under the Democratic plan, white voters outnumber Hispanic voters more than 2-to-1 in every congressional district. The Democrats’ goal is clear—craft a plan guaranteeing them a decade of electoral dominance in three of Nevada’s four Congressional districts, regardless of what it does to the Hispanic community.

The congressional districts in the Republican plans have been drawn to protect the voting strength of minority communities wherever they clearly exist, are geographically compact, and constitute a majority of the population in the area.

One out of every 4 Nevadans is Hispanic. We are getting a fourth congressional seat. Nevada’s Hispanics contribute a lot to our communities. Is it too much to afford them a seat at the table?