Commuters arrive at Grand Central Station with Metro-North during morning rush hour on June 8, 2020 in New York City.
Angela Weiss | AFP | Getty Images
The battle to redraw U.S. congressional districts is taking place for the first time in decades without certain federal redistricting protections, raising concern that voters of color could get sidelined even as they have become a larger share of the population.
The Census Bureau this week released data that will serve as the basis for states to redraw their congressional districts. The process will influence the balance of power in the United States for a decade to come and could have an impact on the narrowly divided House of Representatives in the 2022 midterms.
The Census data shows the U.S. has grown more diverse over the past decade. Hispanic, Asian and multiracial communities grew rapidly while the white population declined for the first time in history.
Though still the largest group overall in the U.S., the white population shrank by 8.6%. The Hispanic population has grown by 23%, the Asian population by 35%, and the Black population by 5.6%.The multiracial population also grew the fastest over the past decade with a 276% increase.
While this data shows a significant increase in communities of color over the past decade, their political representation may suffer as states redraw their political maps, experts say.
“It’s certainly possible we may actually see a roll back in minority representation, despite population growth, and we expect this will be an area of significant litigation over the decade,” said Adam Podowitz-Thomas, the senior legal strategist for the Princeton Gerrymandering Project and the Princeton Electoral Innovation Lab.
The Supreme Court in 2013 struck down a key provision in the Voting Rights Act that required nine mostly southern states to get approval for their congressional maps from the federal government. Counties in states outside the South, such as New York and California, were also subject to preclearance rules.
To get approval, states had to demonstrate to the federal government that their redistricting plans did not have a discriminatory purpose or impact on the basis of race, color or membership in a language minority group, according to the Justice Department.
The absence of preclearance this year will give way to greater gerrymandering that could threaten the political power of minority communities despite their growing populations in the U.S., experts say.
Gerrymandering refers to the manipulation of district lines to favor one party or class of people. Though the tactic is used by both parties, Republicans are in a stronger position because they hold single-party control in more states, according to Samuel Wang, director of the Princeton Gerrymandering Project.
“Single-party control of map drawing in a state is certainly the biggest motivator and predictor of gerrymandering,” Wang said.