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California’s new voting maps could help save democracy — and maybe Democrats

California's independent redistricting commission finalized voting maps that give more power to several Latino communities. 
Photo Illustration: The California flag with the bear replaced by the Democratic donkey
The result of California’s new map should be more democratic elections.Justine Goode; MSNBC / Getty Images

California’s independent redistricting commission approved new voting maps on Monday that empower Latino voters, a fast-growing group that tends to vote for Democrats. The independent commission is composed of five Democrats, five Republicans and four Independents. 

California lost a seat in the House of Representatives this year after census data found states like Texas and Florida grew at a faster rate. But California’s Latino population has grown significantly since the last census, and the commission drew maps reflecting that growth. 

A Washington Post analysis put it thusly

Latino citizens of voting age make up the majority in 16 districts, up from 13 in the current map, according to an analysis by Paul Mitchell, a redistricting expert who runs the California-based Redistricting Partners, which consults on map drawing. Latinos are 38 percent of California’s population. If all of the 16 newly drawn seats were filled by Latinos, they would make up 30 percent of the California House delegation.

Depending on how next year’s midterm elections shake out, the new map could help decide whether Democrats retain the House. 

I can hear the claims of hypocrisy now. “But Ja’han, you’ve written about Republican gerrymandering multiple times and now you’re celebrating maps that could empower Democrats. Isn’t that contradictory?” 

In fact, no.

Across the country, Republican-led legislatures are drawing districts that are effectively racist. This is because in many cases, they’re denying nonwhite communities the increased representation they’ve earned through population growth. California’s new maps do not do this. Take Texas, for example. Latinos accounted for half of the state’s population growth over the past decade, but Republicans didn’t create any new Latino-majority districts. Instead, they used that population growth to redraw more districts that favor white Republicans

That’s happened in Georgia and several other states, as well. 

The fact that a state’s electoral maps could benefit one party over another doesn’t mean the maps are necessarily corrupt. And while Latino voters have favored Democrats in the past, that could certainly change. Intent and outcome matter here. And the result of California’s map is more democratic elections that are reflective of the diverse population within. 

That’s good for all of us.