Increased competition in the past two decades has led to particularly energetic maneuverings to maximize party dominance in both the Texas Legislature and the state's delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives.
In some cases, this has produced strangely shaped districts that often recall the original "Gerrymander," the salamander shaped district drawn in 1812 to favor anti-federalists in Massachusetts. In other cases, partisan redistricting has produced fairly conventionally shaped districts, but which nevertheless lack the virtues of compactness or the preservation of so-called "communities of interest."
In urban areas party-driven redistricting efforts have often led to a push-and-pull over the distribution of black and Hispanic minorities. Because these minority groups tend to vote for Democratic candidates, Democrats attempted throughout the 1990s to concentrate enough minorities in some districts to improve the electoral prospects of minority candidates, or in some cases, of white Democrats obligated to minority voters. At the same time Democrats have been careful to distribute minority voters in as many districts as possible in order to maximize the number of Democrat-leaning districts. It's a careful balance.
If minorities gained power either directly or indirectly by this, it was not always the main goal. Indeed, under Democratic redistricting plans minorities sometimes were assigned to districts designed to elect white Democrats, as Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Dallas) noted in 2003.1
When Republicans have controlled the redistricting process, which has happened only recently, they have tried to disperse minorities. Their aim has been to undermine the opportunities for Democratic Party victories, rather than directly discriminate against racial and ethnic minorities. Sometimes in large urban areas, however, Republicans have had to cede at least one district to minorities, usually by concentrating as many minorities as possible in that single district. Either tendency minority vote concentration to elect Democrats, or minority vote dilution to elect Republicans can produce resentment on the part of minority residents and even court challenges.
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