Jan 7, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Rising urban Latino, Asian populations shake up redistricting fight

Illustration of a pattern of “I voted” stickers in Spanish and English.
Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Rising numbers of Latinos and Asian Americans in cities — as Black populations shift toward the suburbs — are forcing some states into redistricting decisions shaking up historically Black wards.

Why it matters: News coverage around 2022 redistricting fights has focused on Republican efforts to maximize white and conservative voters' power. But many cities are grappling with an entirely different kind of redistricting drama — one that's mostly confined to heavily Democratic communities of color.

Details: In Chicago, Latino and Black advocates have clashed over how the city's 50 districts should be redrawn. The city's Latino population jumped 5% during the past decade, while the number of Black residents fell 10 %.

The intrigue: The percentage of Black Americans remained roughly the same from 2010 to 2020, at around 12.5%, according to data from the 2020 census.

  • And for the first time in the nation's history, there was an overall decline in the non-Hispanic white population.

Yes, but: The Latino population in the U.S. grew by 23% during the past decade — and some metro areas saw a population boom three or more times that rate.

  • The number of Asian Americans in the U.S. skyrocketed by 35% — to 24 million — during the same period, making it the fastest-growing group.

Between the lines: Nearly half of the nation's largest 50 cities saw decreases in the percentage of Black Americans as the population moved to nearby suburbs, according to a Brookings Institution analysis of the census.

  • They're leaving historic Black districts and wards created after long civil rights protests and costly lawsuits; Latinos and Asian Americans are moving in.

What they're saying: "As Latino Caucus chairman, I have a responsibility to fight for our constituents. We deserve fair representation and that comes with fair maps," Chicago City Council Alderman Gilbert Villegas told Axios.

  • "We’re not going to be pushed around anymore, or have our constituents used as backfill in order to prop up other wards. We want our population growth to be reflected in opportunities to elect our own representatives."

The other side: Alderman Jason Ervin, who chairs the Black Caucus, told the Chicago Tribune those plans were gutting Black wards and would hurt the city.

  • “I’m disappointed that another protected class would basically go after another protected class in order to create something that only benefited them,” he told the newspaper.

Our thought bubble: Axios Chicago's Justin Kaufmann, who's watching the debate, said: "The Black Caucus doesn't want to give up any of their 16 seats, even though they lost population.

  • "The Latino Caucus wants at least two (maybe three) seats based on population increases. Ultimately, this may end up being decided by voter referendum."

Don't forget: Some groups are still working together. Emgage Texas, a group that advocates for Muslim American civic engagement, recently joined a lawsuit with Latino and Black advocates challenging new state-level Texas district lines.

  • Amatullah Contractor, the group's deputy director, told Axios that diverse Fort Bend County — near Houston — has an Asian plurality, and state lawmakers divided the county into three state House districts.
  • "There were also just a lot of concerns about whether they even knew who their representatives were because of the way the lines are drawn," Contractor said. "They're so intricate that ... sometimes the lines go through two houses."
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