Blacks lost clout in 2010 election

A particular concern for black Democrats will be the GOP’s greater role in redistricting, although the Voting Rights Division of the Justice Department under President Obama provides a significant measure of protection for black lawmakers. One example of these opposing forces could come in Georgia’s 2nd District (Albany, etc.), where US Rep. Sanford Bishop (D), who is black, was reelected by a slim 51 percent last year. The GOP, which controls both houses of the Peach State legislature, may want to add some white votes to the district – which was 48 percent black in 2000 – to help a Republican win the seat. But the Justice Department might veto any such change, on the grounds that it diminishes minority representation on the state’s congressional delegation.

In the past – particularly after the 1990 Census – black Democrats and white Republicans were often able to find common ground on redistricting issues in the South, creating black districts that all-but guaranteed the election of a black candidate and heavily white districts that favored Republicans. That practice was less apparent after the 2000 Census, as black incumbents found it easier to win reelection without extra-large majorities of African-American voters and became more interested in helping the Democratic Party.

Despite the overall Republican trend, the effect of the Voting Rights Act was to limit the Democratic losses almost entirely to whites. Nationwide, although the Democrats’ lost 63congressional seats, every single black incumbent was reelected. In the South, Democrats lost 21 congressional seats, all of them held by whites. Every district that had a black incumbent returned a black incumbent to Congress; black Democrats even gained one seat, Louisiana’s 2nd District (New Orleans), which had been held by an Asian Republican elected in a low-turnout special election. It is likely that black state legislators also held on to their offices.

Southern Political Report
2/2/11