Black and Latino residents worry City of Dallas redistricting maps will dilute their voting power
Redistricting maps for Dallas City Council races recently were updated after Black and Latino residents complained that earlier versions threatened their voting power. And that could happen again.
One last public hearing by the redistricting commission is scheduled on Saturday. The council is soon expected to vote on a final redistricting map.
The commission updated two map proposals earlier this week after outcry from advocates and residents in Black and Latino neighborhoods.
Neighborhood advocates said the original maps split or moved communities of color into new districts that are more white and affluent. They said residents’ voting power, and cultural and historical ties would be in jeopardy.
Jonathan Maples, a resident of the historically Black neighborhood Elm Thicket NorthPark worried that new district boundaries would cut through his neighborhood. He said that would dilute residents’ voting power. Elm Thicket NorthPark is a small neighborhood east of the Dallas Love Field Airport.
“We do not want to be in a situation to where everything you worked for, everything that you know, gets whitewashed,” he said.
Original map proposals approved by the redistricting commission moved the Elm Thicket NorthPark to District 13, which includes Northwest Dallas and Preston Hallow. Maples said the problem with that was his Black neighborhood would lose their voice if placed in a majority white district.
“That's like me having a debate with 25 people,” Maples said. “We're going to raise hell to try to keep us to try to stay together.”
The two updated maps are map 17 and map 41. Elm Thicket NorthPark is currently in District 2. Map 17 leaves it there. But Map 41 divides moves part of it into the majority Latino District 6 in West Dallas.
Every 10 years, political leaders redraw, shape and change the boundaries for city council districts. That process is called redistricting. It typically takes place after each Census. The goal is to rebalance the number of residents in each district to ensure fair representation.
Latest Census results show that the City of Dallas grew by 106,563 residents and now totals about 1.3 million. Demographics remained about the same. Latinos represent 42% of the population, white residents 28%, Black residents 23%, and Asians 4%. Native and Pacific Islanders each represented less than 1% each of Dallas’ population.
West Oak Cliff resident Christine Hopkins said the redistricting process also has been a “huge battle” in District 1, which includes Oak Cliff, Bishop Arts District and southwest of downtown.
Hopkins said the future of working-class Latino residents living in Oak Cliff may depend on the district they get placed in. She said earlier maps moved parts of Northern Oak Cliff to District 14, which currently has a smaller minority population. And a large part of Oak Cliff remained in District 1.
“If you have a council member who is elected by folks who own million-dollar homes and who want to see development, then those are the interests that are going to be advanced in District 1, rather than the interests of people who are working class who can barely afford the property taxes on their homes,” she said.
She said she wants future city council members to represent Oak Cliff’s interests.
The latest version of Map 17 still includes the Bishop Arts District in District 14. The latest version of Map 41 includes Northern Oak Cliff in District 1 but also adds the neighborhood of Cockrell Hill to that district.
Maples said he’s imploring the city to keep his community together.
"Black and brown people were told where we can live... And we lived there, and we prospered,” Maples said. “So we don't want to now be herded around like cattle. This is our dirt. This is our land. We built it up."
Dallas needs to have a new district map in time for the May 2023 election, when all 14 city council seats and the mayor’s office will be up for grabs.
Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.
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