Factoid: Black State Legislators in 2009

There are now a record 628 African Americans in the legislatures of the 50 states, according to the National Black Caucus of State Legislatures and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Last year there were 622 Africans Americans state legislators.

A list with the count of African Americans in each state legislature is at the web site for the Conference of State Legislatures. I have prepared this edited version of the list:

Count and Percentage of Black State Legislators, 2009 (Sorted by Percentage of Blacks in the Legislature {% of Total Seats})
black-legislators-all21

Some comments:

• The last column of the list, “Over/Under Representation,” is the difference between the percentage of African Americans in the state’s population, and the percentage of African Americans in the state legislature.

These are the states for which the state’s black population percentage most exceeds the legislature’s black percentage, causing blacks to be “under-represented” in the legislature:
legislatures-black-under-represent1

These are the states for which the legislature’s black percentage most exceeds the state’s black population percentage, causing blacks to be “over-represented” in the legislature:
legislatures-black-over-represent

There have been discussions recently about whether there is still a need for the Voting Rights Act, which among other things, calls for the creation of majority black districts in the the South when possible. This is done under the assumption that if not for majority black districts, blacks would not be elected into office, since white tend not to vote for black candidates.

The under-representation numbers in the Southern states listed above seem to indicate that there is still a problem with blacks getting “numerical” representation in the South.

• Georgia and Mississippi have the largest black delegations, with 53 and 50 legislators respectively.

• According to the National Conference of State Legislatures web site, nine states-Idaho, Iowa, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wisconsin-have no black legislators. I think the numbers for Wisconsin are incorrect though. Milwaukee has a large black population, and the area sends a black woman to the US Congress, House member Rep. Gwen Moore.

• I don’t know how many of the legislators are Democrats, Republicans, or independents. But according to a report from the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, in 2008 there were 622 black state legislators among whom only ten were Republicans. In state Senates, there were 155 black Democrats and three black Republicans. In state Houses (and assemblies), there were 485 black Democrats and seven black Republicans.

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