In California's redrawn political districts, white voters will dominate

The Sacramento BeeAugust 8, 2011 

Most of California's legislators and congressional representatives will be elected over the next decade from districts dominated by white voters, the state's new political maps show.

Districts drawn by the state's first-ever redistricting commission may bolster the clout of other racial groups – particularly Latinos – but probably not end the longtime political dominance by whites.

Caucasians currently hold nearly two of every three legislative seats, for example, even though California's white population fell to below 50 percent of the state total more than a decade ago.

"The overrepresentation of whites, I think, will continue," said Marqueece Harris-Dawson of the African American Redistricting Collaborative. "Hopefully, that will be a focal point of the redistricting process (in 2021)."

In six of every 10 new legislative and congressional districts drawn by the California Citizens Redistricting Commission, whites comprise more than 50 percent of the adult citizen population, exceeding the total of all other groups combined, according to statistics by Redistricting Partners, a research and consulting firm.

The imbalance is due largely to population distribution – not racial discrimination – analysts say, adding that candidates of any color are potential contenders in districts dominated by their party.

"Minorities, more and more, are getting the ability to get elected almost anywhere," said Paul Mitchell, a Democratic strategist and leader of Redistricting Partners.

In the capital area, for example, Richard Pan of Sacramento and Mariko Yamada of Davis are Asian Americans who captured Assembly seats in districts where that racial group represents only a small fraction of the citizen voting age population.

No legislative district in California currently has a majority of African Americans in its adult citizen population, yet six black lawmakers hold Assembly seats and two hold Senate seats. Latinos constitute a majority of the citizen voting age population in 14 districts but hold 23 legislative seats.

Political analyst Tony Quinn, a former GOP legislative aide, said that it is virtually impossible to draw equal numbers of "majority minority" districts because whites tend to dominate the state's rural counties, coastline and Los Angeles suburbs.

Whites account for two-thirds of the state's likely voters, the Public Policy Institute of California says. "Whites still account for about 60 percent of votes cast," Quinn said.

To read the complete article, visit www.sacbee.com.

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