As Texas' population grows, so too could Latinos' political power
Political observers say the state's growing Latino population is why more education efforts are needed to help Latinos understand how redistricting affects their vote.
The future of Texas is Latino, according to observers who’ve analyzed the most recent census numbers.
From 2010 to 2020, the Latino population in Texas grew by more than 20% and that growth contributed to nearly half of the state’s population increase during the same period. From 2010 to 2020, the overall population in Texas grew from 25.1 million to 29.1 million.
“But what I would point to as perhaps the most significant finding from the 2020 Census is that nearly half of the entire Texas population under 18 is Latino,” said Arturo Vargas, chief executive officer of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund. “So when you consider the future workforce of the state, the future leadership of the state, the future electorate of the state, it increasingly will be Latino.”
The NALEO Educational Fund highlights this and other demographic trends in its 2020 Census Profile of Texas.
Vargas said the growth of the Latino population is having an impact on statewide political races and tightening contests between Republicans and Democrats candidates. But he explained that Latinos are not beholden to any one party.
“This means that both political parties if they want to be the party of the future, they need to ensure that they have sophisticated, well-thought out strategies to reach out to and bring Latinos into the fold of their political parties, both Republicans and Democrats,” he said. “If you take Latinos for granted, if you do not talk to them, if you do not engage them, you’re missing out on a significant portion of the future electorate.”
NALEO’s report also notes that the U.S. population is becoming more urbanized and that more Latinos now live in or near large metropolitan areas. In Texas, more than 95.9% of the growth of the Latino population over the past decade happened in a so-called metropolitan county.
Another finding: All 10 of the largest counties in Texas have a significant Latino community. In Harris County, Latinos make up 43% of the population and in Dallas County, Latinos make up 40.5% of the total population. In Collin County, Latinos account for 15.9% of the overall population.
Battle over political maps
NALEO’s report comes on the heels of newly-approved redistricting maps in Texas that critics say will dilute the vote of Latinos and other people of color. Vargas said Texas has a long history of using redistricting to limit Latino political power.
“We've seen this virtually in every single redistricting cycle where federal courts have found discriminatory intent in the way maps have been drawn in Texas for Congress and the state legislature,” he said. “These maps appear to be continuing in that unfortunate tradition.”
Vargas added that he’d like to see more Latinos fully understand the redistricting process, because the way political maps are drawn affects their ability to elect who they want.
KERA News is made possible through the generosity of our members. If you find this reporting valuable, consider making a tax-deductible gift today. Thank you.