It's another blog post full of acronyms and numbers. Bear with me, please.
The Richardson ISD school board formally adopted single-member districts (SMD) for upcoming elections. Five trustees will be chosen by voters in geographic districts and two will be chosen at-large by all voters. The districts were carefully drawn to ensure two of them would have minority populations that make up a majority of the voters in those districts. The data show how tenuous that turned out to be.
First, the constitutionally legal requirements: the districts range in size (total population) from 40,742 (District 1, or the "Pearce district") to 43,811 (District 5, or the "Lake Highlands district"). I haven't studied the details, but you probably can't achieve more balance without dividing voting precincts. Besides, those numbers are a moving target, with people moving in and out of the district every day, so let's just say, as my grandfather used to, "close enough for government work."
Second, the more important breakdown: the citizen voting-age population (CVAP) in each district. CVAP determines who *can* vote, not who *does* vote, so CVAP, not total population, determines what's possible in each district. CVAP tells a more interesting story than total population.
CVAP ranges in size from 22,071 (District 3, the "Latino opportunity district") to 30,884 (District 5 again, the "Lake Highlands district"). What this means is that, if you live in District 5 (the "Lake Highlands district"), your vote is worth only about 3/4 what a vote in the "Latino opportunity district" (District 3) is worth, measured by how many more votes it takes in District 5 to ensure a win than the number of votes it takes in District 3 to ensure a win.
This is not "democratic", not "one person, one vote", in the broadest sense of those terms, but it's legal and, given RISD demographics, it's necessary to achieve the minority opportunity districts called for in the settlement of the voting-rights lawsuit. This disparity in voting power is nothing new in American voting. Wyoming voters have much more power than, say, California voters do in terms of how many votes in each state are needed to ensure election of Congresspersons or Senators. I merely point out that we'll now have an example closer to home than Wyoming when discussing the undemocratic nature of America's voting system.
Despite the favorable map, the breakdown of CVAP in those minority opportunity districts shows that electing minorities is no sure thing.
District 4 (the "black opportunity district") shows what this lawsuit was all about. It's 55.4% black and only 22.4% white. If race affects voting patterns in RISD at large, keeping blacks from running or getting elected, District 4 should now be free from that adverse effect. But note that 55.4%, while a majority, is hardly an overwhelming majority. In a contested race, the winning candidate will still need an effective get-out-the-vote effort.
District 3 (the "Latino opportunity district"), on the other hand, is only 19.1% Latino. It's 23.9% black and 43.9% white. Whites aren't a majority in this minority opportunity district, but they are a plurality. In a contested race, the winning candidate is going to have to demonstrate he or she can draw significant support from all communities in the district.
This map just shows the playing field (or fields). We still need to encourage strong candidates to run. The different neighborhoods and interest groups still need to get out the vote. Without that, this whole process will just have been an exercise in futility. The RISD community now has the opportunity to have a school board that looks like the community as a whole. The rest is up to us.