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Racial Gerrymandering and Geographic Information Systems: Subverting the 2011 Texas District Map with Election Technologies

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Purpose: This research contributes to the scholarship in technical communication on race by furthering work regarding latinidad and technical documentation.
Method: This article looks specifically at the 2017 Texas court case involving the 2011 district map involving districts 23 and 35. The article also analyzes the methods with which legislative mapmakers operate and deploy GIS software.
Results: As previous researchers have noted, latinidad is often constructed in political and governmental documents within the United States to position Latinos as a threat to White Americans. Frequently, this constructed threat is mitigated by inflating the contributions of White Americans over their Latino counterparts. Yet, this examination of the 2017 court case illustrates that mapmakers can also utilize Geographic Information Systems to gerrymander districts and thus suppress Latino's voting power to help White Americans maintain political power. Most worrisome is mapmakers' deference to and citation of the Voting Rights Act to justify the creation of districts that account for and control electoral agency.
Conclusion: The article concludes by asserting that technical communicators move beyond compliance in order to account for multicultural publics and to avoid engaging in similar technological practices. It also encourages technical communicators to become more active in identifying practices that threaten democratic integrity and in using their skills to promote more socially equitable electoral practices across their teaching, research, and advocacy.
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Keywords: GEOGRAPHIC INFORMATION SYSTEMS (GIS); GERRYMANDERING; MAPS; MINORITY PUBLICS; VISUAL RHETORIC

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2018

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  • Technical Communication, the Society's journal, publishes articles about the practical application of technical communication theory and serves as a common arena for discussion by practitioners. Technical Communication includes both quantitative and qualitative research while showcasing the work of some of the field's most noteworthy writers. Among its most popular features are the helpful book reviews. Technical Communication is published quarterly and is free with membership.
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