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Despite an unprecedented series of challenges—a global pandemic, extreme weather, rampant misinformation, voter intimidation, and coordinated efforts to disenfranchise millions of voters of color—Black voters turned out in record numbers in 2020 to have their voices heard in one of our nation's most important election years.But let's be clear. The election did not go smoothly. Record turnout nationally and in many states was only possible thanks to a Herculean effort on the part of many non-profit organizations and many thousands of individuals and volunteers, as well as the enormous sums of money spent on election security and countering misinformation.
Every 10 years, political districts at all levels of government are redrawn to make sure they are equal in population as required by the U.S. Constitution.1 Currently every state apportions representatives and draws congressional and state legislative districts on the basis of a state's total population.2 That is, when districts are drawn, all people living in the state, including children and noncitizens, are counted for the purposes of representation.However, some Republican political operatives and elected officials aim to unsettle this long-standing practice by excluding children and noncitizens from the population figures used to draw state legislative districts.3 Rather than count everyone, states would draw districts based only on the adult citizen population.Making such a break with current practice and precedent would be of dubious legality and would leave states vulnerable to a host of legal challenges. It also would have major practical implications for redistricting. This study looks at what such a change would mean for representation and the allocation of political power in the United States by focusing on its impact three demographically distinct states: Texas, Georgia, and Missouri.
The purpose of the redistricting process should be to create districts that accurately reflect the communities they represent and to distribute political power across those communities. But counting incarcerated individuals at the facility where they are incarcerated, rather than their home addresses, artificially bolsters the political power of certain communities on the backs of individuals who are not truly part of those communities, while simultaneously reducing the political voices of their home communities. In Texas, there are dramatic implications, with a handful of rural regions gaining a disproportionate share of the political power over other rural regions and diminishing the true population count in certain urban areas. This under-representation only exacerbates existing problems with Census undercounts and socio economic disparities which have a root in racial discrimination. It also deviates from how Texas law treats incarcerated populations in every other context, creating a conflict with the Texas constitution that needs to be addressed.Traditionally, the United States Census Bureau has counted incarcerated individuals at the facility where they are housed, but the Bureau has made clear that this historical practice has persisted only for administrative reasons, not for legal or policy ones. Recently, the Census Bureau has evolved in its treatment of incarcerated populations, and, for the first time, will make it practical for states on tight timelines to assign incarcerated individuals to their home communities. Many states across the nation are taking advantage of this opportunity to correct for the distortions created by prison gerrymandering. In order to more accurately reflect the state's population, Texas legislators should take advantage of the Census Bureau's new tools and work with state agencies to identify those prisoners who, rightfully, should be counted at an address in their permanent community.
The Threads of Texas is a research project launched by More in Common to understand change in Texas: the divergent views toward change that are pulling Texans apart, and the shared identity and dreams for the future that can bring Texans together.Texas is continuously in a state of change — economically, politically, demographically. As Texas grapples with major changes, how do Texans across age, race, and political parties hold onto what they perceive as "truly Texan?" How does Texas replicate its DNA to maintain its sense of identity as new people, new ideas, and new industries make their homes in the state? These questions have become more urgent as the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2021 winter storm challenge the Texas social and economic landscape.These are the questions that inspired More in Common to launch a landmark study of the state of Texas. In 2020 and 2021, we heard from over 4000 Texans from across the state, including experts in Texan culture and leaders of Texas industries. We capture the striking and ultimately hopeful attitudes of Texans: We find that although Texans on far ends of the ideological spectrum feel exhausted by political divisions, most Texans say that the ties that bind us are stronger than what divides us. They believe in a changing Texas where everyone feels they belong.