Sins of omission
Thursday, Jun 16, 2016 - Posted by Rich Miller
* The AP takes a look at minority representation in state legislatures, including Illinois…
Whites comprise 62.2 percent of Illinois’ population, but hold nearly three-fourths of the 177 seats in the state Legislature. Just over 7 percent of the Legislature is Hispanic, even though Latinos make up nearly 17 percent of the state’s population.
Illinois also has two of the top five state House districts in the U.S. with Hispanic majorities but white representatives. Chicago Democratic Rep. Daniel Burke’s district, which ranks fourth in that category, has a Hispanic population of 75 percent. In House Speaker Michael Madigan’s Chicago district, which ranks fifth, Hispanics make up 68 percent of it.
The AP analyzed the most recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Congress and the National Conference of State Legislatures to determine the extent to which the nation’s thousands of lawmakers match the demographics of its hundreds of millions of residents. The result: Non-Hispanic whites make up a little over 60 percent of the U.S. population, but still hold more than 80 percent of all congressional and state legislative seats. […]
But several factors have contributed to the underrepresentation of Hispanics and Asians in state legislatures throughout the state and the U.S., including low naturalization rates which prevent them voting, said Rob Paral, a Chicago-area demographer. In addition to that, he said some are in the country illegally while others who are U.S. citizens are simply too young to vote or don’t participate.
* The AP chose to lead their Illinois story with a brief profile of Theresa Mah, who won a House Democratic primary in March and will be the state’s first Asian-American legislator when she’s sworn in next January, despite the state having an Asian-American population of 5 percent.
Not mentioned, for whatever reason, is that Mah’s district is majority Latino and she defeated a Latino opponent. That omission is pretty darned weird, particularly in this context.
Also not mentioned is that while African-Americans make up 14.7 percent of Illinois’ population, they comprise 18 percent of General Assembly membership.