Texas, Follow the Florida Model of Redistricting—Keep Hispanic-Majority Districts Together, Then Woo Them

By Alex Gonzalez

Texas will have to go through the painful process of redrawing its congressional districts and still show that it doesn’t not want to alienate Latinos and other minorities in the state. Since redistricting was one of them most contentious issues in Texas during the 82nd Session, perhaps it is time for Republicans in the Texas Legislature to try a different approach, the Florida approach—keep Latinos districts together and win over their vote and trust.  After all, that is how they do it in Florida.  As conservatives, we like to preach that Latinos are naturally conservative, if we truly believe that, maybe is time we put it to the test instead of splitting districts to bring in more “Anglo” voters.  This only serves to minimize the effect of the Mexican-American vote in Texas, in urban areas and in south Texas.  Presuming that Hispanics will vote democrats without going to their community is not a strong reason to split their single-majority-Hispanic district.

There are nine House members in charge of the Redistricting (Procedural) Committee—5 Republicans and 4 Democrats—who will be in charge of drawing the new districts.  Previously, the state used interim electoral maps, made by a federal court in San Antonio, for the 2012 election.  (Nearly 90% of the state’s 4.3 million new residents are Hispanic, black or Asian). If you have taken a class in politics you know that redistricting, gerrymandering, is more about getting members of your Party elected or re-elected with “safe” districts than Democracy.

For example, last year’s Texas redistricting map was ruled discriminatory, twice.

In one instance in West Texas, the legislature’s map makers said “that they tried to make the district more Republican” by replacing “many of the district’s active Hispanic voters with low-turnout Hispanic voters in an effort to strengthen the voting power of…Anglo citizens,” found the judge, a George W. Bush appointee.

Of course, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court, and thus, and an interim map was draw just in time for the 2012 election. But it is time to stop this game.  Let’s be respectful to Mexican-American voters, give them their own districts, like they do in Florida with Cubans. And maybe with the money we spend on litigation in federal courts, we can do outreach in Hispanic communities to plant the conservative “seed.”

From my perspective,  if one compares Texas with Florida, the real issue for the Republican Party is how to keep Mexican-Americans in Texas from becoming a single district because they may vote Democrat.  This is not that Republicans are a racist or a prejudicial Party, but it is just politics as usual  For example, while in Texas the GOP is trying to stop Mexicans-Americans from becoming too solidified in a voting district, in Florida, the Republican controlled legislature in Tallahassee, was drawing districts to guarantee that those districts continue to be controlled by a single-majority Republican Hispanic Cuban vote.   Republicans do like Hispanics, but Hispanics just have to vote Republican so a symbiotic relationship for power can be developed and control of the vote.

For instance, in 2011, Republicans legislators in Tallahassee approved a redistricting plan that would offer safer and stronger districts for Miami’s three Cuban-American Republican lawmakers, U.S. Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and David Rivera.  Ros-Lehtinen’s District 18, which stretches from Key West up the coast to the Broward County line, grew by 58,699 voters since the 2000 census.  However, 61 percent of the newcomers registered as no party affiliation; 26 percent registered as Democrat; and, Republican registration dropped 3 percent. The result of the single majority-Hispanic Cuban Republicans district went from a 69,000 vote margin to one where the GOP margin was only 745 voters. The new maps also helped Diaz-Balart.  In the last decade, his current District 21 saw a 26 percent increase in registered voters and the Republican to Democrat voter margin of 29,000 voters shrunk to 6,000 votes by 2012.

Thus, Latinos in Texas can vote Republican, but Republicans need to lure Latinos, or help them, as the Republican Party did in Florida if they want to strengthen their Latino vote.  Moreover, Latinos in Texas can be a conservative bloc. Texas has a the largest Latino middle-class (fiscal conservative) and  church-goers than other state. Also, affluent 3rd  and 4th generations of Mexican American believe conservative on stronger free-trade ties with Mexico based on legal framework. Thus, Latino in Texas are also naturally conservative in matter of free trade, Republicans just need to reach out to them to win them over. Too, in Texas, 52% of Latinos self-identify as conservatives. Therefore, the conservative culture and political mantra of Texas does instill in Mexican-Americans an affinity toward conservatism, the GOP  just  needs to go the districts the same way Republicans go to Cuban  districts  in south Florida.  Consequently, a single-majority Hispanic district, with the right conservative approach—Positive Conservatism–may lead to a cohesive conservative  pattern among Hispanics; not so much because they are monolithic as a group, but because all Latinos in Texas care about the same pressing issues: jobs, education, healthcare  and immigration.  This, then, is indeed a cohesive voice that can be won over by Republicans.

I am all for Voter ID since it does protect the integrity of the Vote; and since  in states where it has passed the Constitutional requirement like Indiana and Georgia, the minority vote has actually increased. But Republicans need to be realistic; you cannot keep control of the entire voting age population of the state win only 4.5 millions, and by keep stretching the districts to find “Anglo” voters in what can be a Latino district with potential  to become Republican if indeed Republican go there and invite Latinos or start planting the” seed.”

Gerrymandering is legal under the law since the Supreme Court precedents permit gerrymandering to favor a political party but not to disenfranchise minorities. Thus,  Latino conservative in Texas argued  that Latinos are not a monolithic group and therefore should not be perceived as a single-group. That is true. But that is an ideological difference that have nothing to do with the fact that Latinos are still labeled as “minority” under the census, even if Cubans vote Republican and Puerto Ricans vote democrats. Perhaps and easy way would be ending the “minority” Latino/Hispanic label.

Therefore, single-majority Latinos districts in Texas do not need to sponge out “active Hispanic voters” and bring in low turnout Latinos, and thereby, strengthening the “Anglo” vote.  The GOP needs  to strengthen the Latino vote by establishing a permanent base through outreach programs.   They should follow the Florida-Cuban path of redistricting.  The aging voting “Anglo” needs to be injected with young new blood to make Republican Party a viable Party for the Future as well since for the past ten years we have not had any increase in the Anglo voter Registration.

Alex Gonzalez  is a political Analyst and Political Director for Latinos Ready To Vote!  He received a Bachelors Degree and a Masters’ Degree, with emphasis in American politics,  from San Francisco State University.
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