February 9, 2011 | Fox News Latino | Original Article

States owe extra congressional seats to Hispanics


Washington -  The eight states that gained seats in the U.S. House of Representatives as a result of the 2010 Census, among them Texas, Florida and Arizona, owe the extra political clout to their growing Hispanic populations, the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials says.

In South Carolina, which gained one seat, the number of Latinos grew by 117.5 percent, while the non-Hispanic population grew by only 11.2 percent, according to a study released Tuesday by the NALEO Educational Fund.

The contribution of Hispanics to increasing states' representation in Congress should translate into more representation for Latinos as well, NALEO Executive Director Arturo Vargas said at a press conference in Washington.

NALEO, which in 2010 pursued a huge campaign to get Hispanics counted in the Census, now works to familiarize Latino politicians and community leaders with the redistricting process and enable them to report possible "irregularities and injustices."

"Historically, politicians have used redistricting to discriminate against minorities, Vargas said, urging the states to fulfill the requirements of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which bars the creation of districts that may dilute the votes of under-represented minorities.

Texas gained four House seats in the 2010 Census, while Florida picked up two. Georgia, Washington, Arizona, South Carolina, Utah and Nevada, each received an additional seat.

In the majority of these states the growth of the Hispanic population in the past decade has been at least three times greater than that of non-Latino citizens.

Texas registered an increase in the Hispanic population of 37.2 percent, compared to 10.2 percent for non-Latinos.

The increase in the number of Hispanic also contributed, Vargas said, to helping California, New Mexico and Colorado maintain their numbers of House seats despite the rather slow growth of their non-Latino populations.

"The growth of the Latino population is reshaping our nation's political geography. The 2011 redistricting process will map the future of our representative democracy for the next decade, and those who are drawing district lines must recognize that growth and ensure that Latinos can choose their elected leaders," he said.

NALEO defends the interests of the Latino community but also maintains a close collaboration with associations of blacks and Asian-Americans to defend the political representation of minorities.