Tag Archives: minority representation

Minority Members of the U.S. House

Note: This is a first cut at the data. If you catch any errors or omissions, please let me know. I have updated the original post to include Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (NY 11).

The total number of Black, Latino, Asian and Native American Members of Congress elected in 2020 is 111, or 25.5% of the membership. These numbers exclude non-voting members from D.C. or the territories.

In a departure from previous Congresses, one-half of new minority members will sit as Republicans–10 of 20. Among Latinos and Asians, the total number of Democrats is down while the number of Republicans is up. African and Native Americans saw gains in members from both parties.

African Americans

The 55 African Americans will compose 12.6% of the U.S. House as compared to 12.5% of the total population that was estimated as non-Hispanic Black (one race) by the Bureau of the Census in 2019. The total number of Black representatives is four higher than elected in 2018. All but two of the members elected in 2020 are Democrats, a net increase of three Democrats and one Republican.


The 39 Latinos will form 9.0% of the U.S. House compared to an estimated 18.5% of the total population. There is no change in the total number of Latino representatives but there is a shift in the partisan breakdown. While there were just six Latino Republicans in the old Congress, the new Congress will have ten. Correspondingly, the 27 Latino Democrats elected in 2020 represent a decline of three from the 30 who won in 2018.

Asian Americans

The 15 Asian American elected will comprise 3.4% of the House but non-Hispanic Asians (one race) are an estimated 5.9% of the total population. This year’s elections produced a net gain of one Asian representative over 2018. While all elected in 2018 were Democrats, two elected in 2020 are Republicans. The number of Asian Democrats is down one.

The greater under representation of Latinos and Asians is not surprising in light of the much higher rates of non-citizenship. Latinos and Asians who are citizens are especially highly concentrated among the non-voting under 18 population as well as younger voters, who tend to participate at lower rates than older voters in all racial and ethnic groups.

Note that, following convention, Asian includes only East and South Asian here. As a result, the count excludes one Arab American and one Iranian American who are newly elected or returning after a gap in service. Both are Republicans.

Native Americans

There will be six Native American U.S. House members in the new Congress. They will be 1.4% of the U.S. House as compared to an estimated 1.5% of the total population. The population numbers include Native Alaskans, Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders as well as Native Americans.

The total number of Native American representatives is up by two in 2020. The incoming Native American Members of Congress, including one Native Hawaiian, are split evenly between the two parties, as was the case in 2018.

Members Counted Twice

Four representatives fall into more than one of the above categories, so the totals summed from each category are higher than the overall total of 110 minority representatives. New York Reps. Ritchie Torres and Antonio Delgado are Afro-Latino. Similarly, Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott and Washington Rep. Marilyn Strickland are Afro-Asian.

Minority Members of Congress

Black, Latino, Asian and Native American Members of Congress Elected in 2020


Voting Rights and Redistricting

Many people know that the Voting Rights Act can require the creation of majority-minority districts to protect minority representation. But the actual demands of the Act are often misunderstood.

The Supreme Court outlined the basics of when states must create districts designed to advance minority opportunity in a 1986 case called Thornburg v. Gingles. The case outlined a three-prong test that plaintiffs must meet in order to win a case arguing for the creation of a new majority-minority district.

Specifically, the minority group must prove that (1) it is sufficiently large and geographically compact to constitute a majority in a single-member district; (2) it is politically cohesive; and (3) racial-bloc voting usually defeats the minority’s preferred candidate.

I think of the first prong as the “is there a solution?” prong. Courts generally are not in the business of taking cases where they cannot offer relief. So if it is not possible to create a geographically compact single-member district with a group majority, don’t bother.

Of course, this still leaves room open for interpretation. For example, how compact must a district be to be deemed “geographically compact?” In more recent cases, courts have inveighed against minority districts with bizarre boundaries drawn for racial reasons–even as the Court has deemed it acceptable to gerrymander for partisan reasons.

This prong is one reason why there has been little litigation to create Asian-American majority districts. It’s just not possible to draw these districts  in most areas of the country just as it would likely be very difficult at best to create one anywhere in Maryland.

The second prong requires that the minority group tends to vote together. Obviously, 100% cohesion never actually occurs and is not needed to meet this requirement. Moreover, the level of cohesion can still vary across races.

But the basic idea is that you cannot draw a district designed to protect the interests of minority if the minority is not cohesive. For example, how would one advantage the interests of a group that splits its votes evenly between Democrats and Republicans?

The third prong is often the most critical. If the first prong focuses on the potential for a solution, this prong assesses whether there is a problem. Voting must be racially polarized–that is, the minority and majority groups must regularly, though not always, support different candidates.

Moreover, racial-bloc voting must be sufficiently great to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate. After all, if a black candidate in a 40% black district receives 85% of the black vote and 35% of the white vote, the black candidate will still win with 55%.

If the minority candidate can win without drawing a district with a majority of group members, the Court did not really see a problem. Why should courts intervene to aid minority candidates if they have a good shot even without their help?

So the racial-bloc voting has to be sufficient to defeat the minority’s preferred candidate. For example, in the same district, if the black candidates rarely received more than 10% of the white vote, they would usually lose and meet the requirement.

In cases in which minorities can win with reasonable frequency even if they do not constitute a majority, courts are more reluctant to create districts. Del. Ana Sol Gutiérrez has argued for creating a subdistrict in District 18 to elect a Latino candidate. But her repeated election from a district without a Latino majority would provide evidence for the other side in a court case.

Note that I refer to the minority’s preferred candidate. The point is the candidate preferred by the minority group regardless of the race of the candidate. So white candidates who receive a majority of the black vote running against a black candidate are still minority-preferred candidates–or candidates of choice in the argot. Still, results from elections with candidates of the same race as the group at issue are considered especially valuable in assessing racial polarization in voting rights cases.

One also has to be careful not to lump minority groups together willy-nilly. Courts do not just combine African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans into a single category. On the contrary, one would need to prove that such groups consistently vote together to  begin to make such a case. And they often don’t.

If you’d like to know more, you can buy a copy of my book, The Paradox of Representation: Racial Gerrymandering and Minority Interests in Congress, (the perfect Easter or Passover gift) or look online at Google Scholar or Research Gate for my articles in various political science and law journals.