Posted on August 27, 2021

Southern Counties Lose Their White Majorities, Threatening GOP

Tim Henderson, Stateline, August 26, 2021

Increasing urban diversity in Southern states is complicating Republican efforts to keep the reins of statehouse power and chip away at Democratic control of Congress.

Of the 65 counties that turned majority minority since 2010, meaning more than half the population is made up of people of color, over two-thirds are in the South, a Stateline analysis of new census data shows. Thirty-five of those counties voted Republican in the 2020 presidential election, down from 39 in 2012.

The four that flipped are Tarrant County, Texas (which includes Fort Worth); Duval County, Florida (which includes Jacksonville); and two counties in the Atlanta suburbs that were key to Democratic victories last year, Henry and Cobb.

Although current trends seem promising for Democrats, there is no guarantee that growing Black, Hispanic and Asian populations will erode GOP power, given the redistricting battles now underway to adjust state and congressional districts, as well as doubts about whether some conservative Hispanic voters will remain Democrats.

But diversifying cities will force Southern Republican lawmakers to try harder to create districts that dilute the power of urban liberals by combining them with more conservative rural areas.

“These Southern states are moving in the direction of being majority minority. Republicans can probably hold on to power for now, but this means they’re going to have to work a lot harder at it,” said Charles Bullock, chair of the political science department at the University of Georgia.

Political change has been clearest in the Atlanta suburbs, where Black migration led to a wholesale shift from Republican to Democratic victories in state and national votes. Both Henry and Cobb counties voted Democratic for president in 2016 and 2020 after decades of voting for Republicans.

The White population in Henry County dropped from 52% in 2010 to 36% in 2020, and Cobb’s dropped from 56% to 48%. Henry’s Black population grew from 38% to 52% in that time, while Cobb’s increased from 26% to 29%.

“It shows no sign of stopping,” said Henry County Commissioner Bruce Holmes, an African American Minnesota transplant with Georgia roots. Since taking power in the county, Democrats have promoted multifamily housing and walkable neighborhoods, he said.


Political change has been slower in Texas and Florida, where Hispanic residents are driving growth. They include immigrants without voting rights and more conservative voters who could choose either party.


Growing Black and Hispanic populations drove political change in Texas’ Tarrant County, where the White population dipped from 52% to 43% in the past 10 years. In that time, the Black population grew from 16% to 19% while the Hispanic population increased from 27% to 29%, with Asian and Native American populations also growing.

President Joe Biden squeaked out a narrow victory there, by fewer than 2,000 votes out of 835,000—the first win by a Democrat there since former President Lyndon Johnson’s victory in 1964.


Asian immigrants have driven the change to majority-minority status in Travis County, Texas, which includes Austin. Many of the newcomers are software engineers from India who work at tech companies that relocated from California.

The Austin area, already known as “a blueberry in a plate of red Jell-O,” according to Indian American activist and retired engineer Jayant Sheth, has voted Democratic since making an exception in 2000 for native son George W. Bush.

Since Sheth arrived 13 years ago, the Indian community has grown and started to flex its political muscle, mostly in Democratic politics, Sheth said. Some have said they would like to see an Indian American member of the city council from northeastern Austin, where many have settled.

“They can’t draw the lines, is the only thing. We’re not a majority yet. But that’s where we’re headed,” said Sheth.