The U.S. Census Bureau recently began releasing the results of the 2010 Census, and will continue to do so for the next year. On April 1, 2010 the resident population of the United States was 308,745,538. The census results are used to determine reapportionment and redistricting.
Reapportionment can already be determined with the census results recently released. Reapportionment is the allocation of the 435 House of Representative seats. Many states, 32, will remain the same keeping the same amount of Representatives in the House. 10 states will lose seats in the House, and 8 states will gain seats. The big winners were Texas and Florida, which will gain four and two seats. New York and Ohio are both losing two seats.
Now that reapportionment is done redistricting can begin. Redistricting involves dividing the districts through map drawing and affects all levels of government. Generally, the state legislature is responsible for the Congressional, State House, and State Senate districts and local county and city bodies redraw their own district. In six states redistricting is facilitated through a redistricting commission.
Three civil rights groups, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., Asian American Justice Center, and Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), recently released a guide to redistricting, because redistricting is very much a civil rights issue. Redistricting must comply with the Voting Rights Act. The courts have interpreted redistricting law to allow for race to be considered when redistricting when it is necessary to satisfy a compelling state interest, but for the most part the districts still need compactness and contiguity. Involvement in the redistricting process is important to create districts that will ensure diversity in leadership and representation of all residents. Redistricting can also affect language assistance voters receive at the polls, because laws requiring assistance are based on the make up of the population.
Considering the importance of redistricting it is important for the Latino population to be involved in the process, especially given the rise in Latino population in the nation. Anyone can participate in the process of redistricting and advocate for where boundaries should be drawn to make sure redistricting plans do not harm the community. This might seem like an overwhelming and technical process, but there is assistance available to ensure that everyone has a voice in the process. Map drawing software can be expensive, but by coalition building and working with various community leaders, much can be achieved. It is important to identify special concerns of each community and present testimony about community concerns to those making redistricting decisions. Latinos need more representation in government and they must be heard. Voting power is important, but if there are not enough Latinos in a district to make a difference, then law makers will not listen. At a time where legislation important to the Latino community continues to be ignored, Latinos cannot afford to not get involved in the redistricting process.