Just three months after the US District Court approved the redistricted Congressional districts for New York, the state is holding primary elections for Republican and Democratic candidates for Congress and US Senate.
In an effort to help analysts understand the voting patterns for the primary and general elections for Congress in New York, the Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center has updated its map of Congressional districts. Among other things, our new map displays the "citizen voting age population" (CVAP) estimates for each district as well as overall population counts. When you visit our map, move your mouse over each district to display total population counts by race/ethnicity along with CVAP estimates.
The importance of CVAP is discussed below.
Eligible voting population vs. total population
In many Congressional districts, especially in New York City, news reports have noted the changing demographics, partly due to population shifts but also due to new boundaries that are the result of redistricting. Districts that may once have had a predominantly Black population, for example, may now have a more mixed population.
But overall race and ethnicity population counts only tell part of the story. Population data from the decennial 2010 Census include all residents -- citizens as well as recent immigrants who may not yet be citizens, and people who are of voting age (18 or older) as well as children. In some cases, the eligible voting population has a much different racial and ethnic profile than the overall population.
Table 1 below shows total population by race/ethnicity for all 27 Congressional districts. Table 2 below provides citizen voting age population (CVAP) statistics for these districts. We highlight some of the more striking differences after the tables.
Note that these tables refer to "race/ethnicity groups" based on the major categories from the US Census. We used the Census Bureau's mutually exclusive race and Hispanic origin categories as follows: 1) non-Hispanic White; 2) non-Hispanic Black; 3) Hispanic/Latino; 4) non-Hispanic Asian; & 5) all other persons (representing non-Hispanic people who checked two or more races, Native Americans, Hawaiians, or some other race). In reality, these broad categories may not reflect the nuanced, and sometimes striking, demographic and socio-economic differences within these groupings. When we refer to White, Black, Asian, and others, we are referring to non-Hispanics. As the Census Bureau points out, people who identified themselves as Hispanic on the census form can be of any race.
TABLE 1: Total population
(Download source table, in Excel.)
TABLE 2: 2006-10 Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP)
(Download source table, in Excel.)
In every district, the White population eligible to vote makes up a greater proportion of the district's CVAP population than the overall White population as a proportion of total population. In some districts the disparity is striking. In the 6th district, for example, the share of White eligible voters is more than 12 percentage points higher than the overall White population share (Whites make up 39% of the total population, but 51% of the eligible voting population).
In every district, the Hispanic population eligible to vote makes up a smaller proportion of the district's CVAP population than the overall Hispanic population as a proportion of total population. In the 13th district, for example, the share of Hispanic eligible voters is 10 percentage points less than the overall Hispanic population share (Hispanics make up 55% of the total population, but only 45% of the eligible voting population).
These differences may have important implications for actual voting patterns. For example, the 6th district is an open seat that was redistricted to include a substantial Asian American plurality. But in this district, the share of Asian eligible voters is almost 10 percentage points less than the overall Asian population share (in that district, Asians make up 37% of the total population, but only 27.6% of the eligible voting population).
Similarly, in the 13th district Representative Charles Rangel is being challenged by several Democratic candidates in a district that now covers an area where the Black population has decreased while the population Whites and Hispanics has increased. But in this district, the share of Black eligible voters is 7 percentage points more than the overall Black population share (in that district, Blacks make up 27% of the total population, but just over 33% of the eligible voting population). In contrast, the share of Hispanic eligible voters is 10 percentage points less than the overall Hispanic population share (Hispanics make up 55% of the total population, but only 45% of the eligible voting population).
For tomorrow's primary vote these differences may or may not have an impact. The voting population in a Republican or Democratic primary may have an entirely different racial and ethnic composition than eligible voters. Nonetheless, the differences reveal that the overall race/ethnicity population counts that factored in so publicly to the redistricting process may have less to do with actual voting results than a district's racial and ethnic populations who are actually eligible to vote.
The difference between CVAP race/ethnicity characteristics and total population characteristics is also shown in the following table. Table 3 highlights the difference in CVAP share for each race/ethnicity group in each district with the total population share for each district. The percents shaded green have values of 75% or more (i.e., more than three-quarters of the highlighted racial/ethnic groups in these districts are eligible to vote). The percents shaded red have values of 50% or less (i.e., fewer than half of the highlighted racial/ethnic groups in these districts are eligible to vote).
TABLE 3: CVAP race/ethnicity estimates as percent of total population, by district