Ethnicity and elections: Some revealing numbers

SESHADRI KUMAR
Much has been made of “diversity” in Fort Bend County and Asians at large, and Indian Americans in particular, have acquired an aura of importance.

Political parties from both the aisles view them as a must to win elections.

With a plethora of Indian American candidates entering politics, the immigrant population became the cynosure of all eyes.

The newly released American Community Survey population estimates, however, suggests that treating Asian voters as a bloc of holy grail may have been misplaced or disproportionate.

Fort Bend County’s diverse ethnicity has been making national headlines for the last two decades, after the 2000 Census and 2010 Census.

So, the 2020 census is likely to confirm the same status albeit a proportionate increase in the overall population.

The latest available numbers from the 2019 American Community Survey places Fort Bend county’s population at 811,688.

(The raw estimates for 2020 place that number at 880,000).

The White population alone is listed as 31.8 percent, the Black or African Americans 20.3 percent, and Asians are 20.2 percent. The data under "On Race" does not include Hispanics as a category. The entire population is separately categorized as "Hispanic or Latino of any race" at 24.9 percent and not-Hispanic or Latino at 75.1 percent.

If Asians vote as a bloc or one sees them as a minority group with a proclivity to vote to a particular party, then targeted campaign would be worthwhile.

The reality is different. The census data provides the population breakdown for Indian Americans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean and Japanese.

People from the remaining Asian countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are clubbed as other Asians.

The “Other Asians” are same as in population as the Vietnamese, accounting for 2.4 percent each of the total 20.2 percent of the county population.

Vietnamese are estimated at 19,771 and other Asians 19,524.

The single largest segment of the Asian population is Indian American. They account for 9.7 percent or 78,432 out of the total 164,074 Asians in Fort Bend.

The next highest Asian population is of Chinese ethnicity, 29,340, followed by Filipinos at 13,455.

Then there are 2,55 people of Korean origin and 697 Japanese.

Thus, with an estimated number of registered voters close to 480,000 in Fort Bend, the proportionate Indian American voters could be between 25,000 to 30,000.

Further complicating the the analysis is the uneven distribution of ethnics groups among different cities. For example, according to the 2018 American Community Survey, Sugar Land had 38.5 percent White alone, 8 percent Black alone and 46.6 percent Asian alone.

Missouri City, for example, 27.9 percent White alone, 42.2 percent Black alone and 19.9 percent Asian alone.

Then, how critical is the Indian American vote in any election ?

Most of the Indian Americans reside in Precinct 3 and Precinct 4 of Fort Bend County and the other two precincts may have a sprinkling of this population.

Added to this mix is the political topography, deliberately designed during re-districting.

While Precinct 2 is heavily Democratic, Precinct 3 is heavily Republican. Precinct 1 has been oscillating between the two.

Precinct 4, with a predominance of Indian American voters, has turned blue from red.

The impact of Indian American voters is, thus, largely confined to Precinct 4.

A Republican winning a race in Precinct 2 or a Democrat winning a race in Pct. 3 is unlikely or next to impossible.

This also partly explains the phenomenon of Congressional District 22 and House District 26 electing Republicans, while countywide races have had a Democratic Party majority.

In the upcoming redistricting, after the 2020 Census numbers, the same configuration is likely to continue, with more Republican voters assigned to Pct. 1 and more Democrats to Pct. 4.

Now, the commissioners court with a 3-2 Democratic majority may settle for this compromise. Or, they may propose a plan to gerrymander one more precinct more advantageous to Democrats.

Returning to the theme of “diversity,” touted by the political parties, the cause of inclusiveness has given rise to wild, identity politics.

The 2018 and 2020 local election results clearly established the dominance of Democrats in Fort Bend.

But, it also begs the question whether the elected body would stand by or preserve the much ballyhooed “ethnic diversity” or “inclusiveness of ethnicity.”