Minority Majority Voting Districts
A US minority majority district in means a congressional district with its majority constituents being of a racial/ethnic minority as opposed non-Hispanic whites. The decision to classify a congressional district as a majority-minority district is decided upon based on the US census data. Creation of minority majority districts in US is usually as a result of gerrymandering. This act has been disputed within and outside minority communities. A section of analysts and politicians view minority majority districts creation as a way diluting the congressional voting force of minority groups. According to this group, minority majority districts tantamount to racial segregation.
In US politics, the Democrats had dominated the House of Representatives for 40 years until they lost control of it in 1994. Analysts who peg this Republicans victory to minority majority districts argue that MMDs were created in an attempt to increase the descriptive representation of minorities. The nature US single member districts are in such a manner as not to allow a minority group to elect a candidate of their choice. This means that the minority voters have to move to a particular district in order to gain formidable voting bloc. According to Lublin, as the proportion of a minority group increases in a district, the higher the probability of electing a minority candidate from that district.
While minority majority districts appear to promote fair representation of minorities in the congress, the overall effect may be pervasive for US democracy. The minority majority districts actually decrease the substantial congressional representation of the minorities. As Edward Blum put it in his ‘The Ashcroft Fix Is In’ article, majority minority districts results in large number of minorities packed in fewer number of districts. As it is largely viewed that minorities mostly vote for the Democrats, minority majority districts have the perverse potential of weakening Democratic influence in the remaining districts. This in turns boosts Republicans’ influence in those districts. According to Edward, this might have been the main reason why Republicans regained control of the House in 1994. It is possible, therefore, that as much as the original intent of minority majority districts creation was to increase the proportion of minorities to be elected to congressional offices, in practice this has never been. Instead, it has threatened policy representation for the minority groups.
Using various study models, Bullock estimated that Democrats lost four seats in 1992 and a further two in 1994 due to minority majority districts creation. The Republican-Democrat argument should not be taken as biased as the reverse may be true. The main point to note is that majority-minority districts are not good for fair congressional democratic representation. Malcolm Stewart (US federal government attorney) noted that defining a minority majority district is equally problematic. While minority majority district should be a representative responsive for the minority voters’ interest, it is defined by some level of minority voters in practical cases. It is hard for voters to determine whether their preferred candidate will be responsive until they hold office for some time. Complications in defining minority majority districts have been posed by politicians who defect to other parties after their elections.
GIS is one of the easiest and fair means of fair political redistricting. The most important information required for redistricting are population data and maps. The population data, mainly voter register and census data are vital in creating districts that are equal in population. Population data obtained have to be associated with some geographical areas and must be as accurate as possible. Maps are essential in ensuring that only contiguous population units are assigned to respective districts. Political data could either be election results or political party affiliation of voters. Incorporating political data in redistricting process allows for drawing of political profile for the proposed district. This helps predict the partisan implications of redistricting plan.
If election results are reported for the same geographic units as population data, then they can easily be used for redistricting database. This is mostly employed if voters register is used to compile population data. If population data is based on census, then the geographic population and political units may vary. In such a case, census and election geographies may be created in a manner that harmonizes both population and political data.
In using GIS for redistricting, necessary information needs to be collected for electronic redistricting. The spatial data collected must include geographic boundary units as districts basic building blocks. Population data must tally with each geographic unit. For the sake of democracy, race, religion, ethnicity and language-use data should not be used for voting districting. Instead, previous election history should be used. This helps in eliminating the mushrooming of minority majority districts.