Excerpted from Linda Chavez
"The first salvos in a new race war will be launched this
week when the Census Bureau releases its preliminary figures on the 2000 census. I'm
not talking about riots in the streets, but a more sophisticated battle waged via computer
programs to pack minorities into neat, compact voting blocks. It's all part of the
decennial political redistricting required under the Constitution and the 1965 Voting
Rights Act. And the combatants in this war include not only various minority groups,
who stand to gain political influence, but the Democratic and Republican parties. In
an ironic political twist, if state legislatures create more majority black and Hispanic
voting districts, which usually vote Democrat, it's still likely fewer Democrats will be
elected overall." Ms. Chavez then offers the following arguments:
Commentary in the Washington Times
- Americans relocate often, shifting the
demographics and race of voting districts.
- The Census is supposed to help document these
shifts, and to help re-draw voting districts so the shifting population is apportioned a
proper number of seats in the legislature.
- The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been interpreted
to mean that unusual steps must be taken in redrawing voting districts so that blacks and
Hispanics are "properly" represented.
- So-called civil rights organizations insist that
preferred minorities must live in districts that are configured to ensure that they can
elect "one of their own" to the legislature.
- Traditionally, such racially gerrymandered voting
districts often ignore geography, neighborhood, and community in order to configure an
artificial "majority minority" voting district.
- Ironically, the strangely shaped "majority
minority" districts also leave surrounding districts with "majority white"
voters who tend to vote Republican (at about a 60-40 ratio).
- Since whites are the national majority, racially
gerrymandered voting districts actually tend to result in fewer minority representatives
being elected to the legislature.
- Therefore, the best strategy for the minority
special interests is to abandon "majority minority" districts in favor of more
evenly integrated voting districts, i.e., voting districts which have not been designed to
introduce a racial bias into the electoral process.
Linda Chavez concludes as follows: "With Republicans in control of both houses
in 18 state legislatures, and Democrats in control of both houses in 16 down from
30 a decade ago we may see more efforts at racial gerrymandering this year than we
did in 1990. We can also expect to see more lawsuits. After the 1990 census,
groups and individuals filed more than 130 lawsuits in 40 states challenging the [racially
gerrymandered] redistricting plans.
"During the 1990s, the U.S. Supreme Court heard some 10
cases involving race and redistricting. In all of the cases, the court made clear
that race could not be the predominant factor in drawing district lines, striking down
some egregiously gerrymandered districts in the process."
"The easiest and most partisan thing for Attorney General John Ashcroft
to do in these cases would be to approve redistricting plans based on racially
gerrymandered lines. If he does so, he'll win praise from civil rights groups and
his fellow Republicans. But the right thing for him to do is reject any
redistricting plan whose purpose is racially motivated.
"It's wrong for government to be assigning voters on
the basis of their skin color, just as it is wrong for employers to hire or schools to
pick students on that basis. On this issue, the Republicans are on the wrong
"Gerrymander Jigsaw Marathon" by Linda Chavez, as published in the Washington
Times on Thursday, Mar. 1, 2001.
Linda Chavez is the President of the Center
for Equal Opportunity, which opposes the use of racial criteria in educational admissions,
hiring, and contracting. The Center for Equal Opportunity web site is http://www.ceousa.org
[Link to original story: http://www.washtimes.com/commentary/commentary-20013113398.htm
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