This is part of a proposal outlining one possible way to redistrict California.
This post will concentrate on the Central Valley region.
Northern Central Valley
The Northern Central Valley is home to two congressional districts, along with the parts of several others. It is quite easy to redistrict; both congressional districts fit very neatly within the county boundaries:
Population – 35.8% white, 7.0% black, 39.6% Hispanic, 13.8% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 3.4% other
Over-18 Population – 40.8% white, 34.8% Hispanic
Majority-Minority District; New Majority-Minority
Since 2000, this district has had the most interesting history in all California. It’s the only district which changed party control since the incumbent-protection 2000 gerrymander; Democrat Jerry McNerney defeated Republican Richard Pombo in 2006. In 2010 Mr. McNerney nearly lost his seat, in an extremely tight race.
The old seat took in parts of the Bay Area and Central Valley. Since the Bay Area’s population growth has lagged behind, this seat now shifts to be entirely Central Valley-based. It also, quite unintentionally, turns from a white-majority district into a Hispanic-plurality one. The main population base is in San Joaquin Valley, centered around the city Stockton. Stockton is both a Bay Area exurb (many people commute there), an independent region of its own, and some of the most productive farmland in America.
Population – 40.2% white, 3.0% black, 47.3% Hispanic, 6.4% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 2.6% other
Over-18 Population – 46.0% white, 41.5% Hispanic
This district takes in all of Merced County and most of Stanislaus County. It’s famous for the rich agriculture grown in it. This primarily agricultural district is home, California-style, to several cities – Modesto and Merced – where most of the population resides.
Population – 54.3% white, 2.1% black, 36.9% Hispanic, 2.8% Asian, 1.5% Native American, 2.4% other
This district is the enormous yellow-green district at the far-right of the first map, stretching from the Lake Tahoe to San Bernardino County. Part of the district is home to national parks amid sparsely populated desert and mountains: Yosemite, Death Valley, Sequoia National Park, and the Mojave Desert. The majority of the people, however, actually live in agricultural Tulare County.
Southern Central Valley
Population – 22.8% white, 3.7% black, 68.1% Hispanic, 3.4% Asian, 0.5% Native American, 1.5% other
Over-18 Population – 26.9% white, 62.7% Hispanic
Majority-Minority District; Majority-Hispanic
Here is the first majority-Hispanic district in the proposal, with many more to come. This district is drawn to have as many Hispanics as possible, while at the same time deliberately not entering the cities Fresno or Bakersfield. This rural district is home to some of the richest agriculture in America – yet also some of the poorest communities in California.
Ironically, despite being two-thirds Hispanic, this district may still not represent the Latino population adequately. This is because the Hispanics here are disproportionately young, poor, and undocumented (the undocumented ones often work as fruit-pickers). Indeed, the electorate might actually be majority-white. The ratio of Hispanics living in CA-20 to Hispanics actually voting in CA-20 might be the most skewed in the entire nation, with the exception of South Texas. It is therefore quite possible that a VRA challenge might be attempted here, with the argument that this district ought to take in areas with higher rates of Hispanic voting (i.e. the cities). Such a hypothetical district would be highly gerrymandered, which is why it is not done here.
CA-22 (Sienna/Dark Brown):
Population – 42.8% white, 5.5% black, 44.9% Hispanic, 3.7% Asian, 0.8% Native American, 2.3% other
Over-18 Population – 48.3% white, 39.6% Hispanic
Majority-Minority District; New Majority-Minority
CA-22 takes in the whole of the city Bakersfield (which previously was split into two pieces by the 2000 gerrymander). It then includes all of Kern County. While the district is plurality-Hispanic, whites almost certainly compose a large majority of the actual electorate.
Over-18 Population – 40.3% White, 40.1% Hispanic
In the 2000 gerrymander the city of Fresno was chopped up into multiple congressional districts. This proposal remedies that by placing the entirety of Fresno into one congressional district. Credit for this idea goes to the users of swingstateproject.
It is possible that this entire region might be subject to a VRA challenge. Hispanics compose strong plurality of this entire region, and one would therefore expect that the plurality or majority of congressmen elected in the Central Valley to be Hispanic. However, it is quite possible – given low Hispanic participation and ability to participate – that every single elected congressman would be white. Even the 2/3 Hispanic district could quite conceivably elect a white congressman who would act contrary to the interests of the Hispanic population (e.g. by announcing strong opposition against the numerous undocumented Hispanic immigrants living in the district, constituents whom said congressman would speak for rather than attack in an ideal world).
This is the trouble with redistricting; drawing congressional districts according to communities of interest and compactness usually hurts minority representation dramatically. A less pretty map could probably send 2 to 3 Hispanics to Congress. On the other hand, it would probably result in spaghetti-style districts that rip apart communities of interest. Thus the conundrum.
The next post will take a look at California’s Central Coast.