Archives for category: Race
Today, the Supreme Court is hearing arguments in gerrymandering cases from North Carolina and Virginia. Plaintiffs claim that GOP lawmakers in the two states excessively packed black voters into congressional and state legislative districts, thus diluting the influence of black voters. Attorneys for the majority lawmakers, in contrast, claim they are merely complying with provisions of the Voting Rights Act by creating majority-minority districts to enhance the representation of minority voters.
However the Court rules, it is important that context matters when drawing minority access districts. My colleagues (Will Hicks, Appalachian State; Carl Klarner, University of Florida; Seth McKee, Texas Tech) have a paper that examines the likelihood of electing African Americans to state legislatures, comparing the threshold of black voting age population needed to elect a black lawmaker in Southern and Non-Southern states over time. We also look across states within the South. Suffice to say, there’s a considerable difference across regions, and even within the South, of how packed a district needs to be in order for voters to have the ability to elect an African American to the state legislature.

We find that the black population threshold required for a Deep South (Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina) state legislative district to elect a black lawmaker is significantly higher than the black population threshold in districts in Rim South or Non-South states. The figure below graphs the probability a district elects a black legislator conditional on region and the size of that district’s black population.

figure-6-hmks

The probability a district elects a black lawmaker in the Deep South (left panel) versus the Rim South (right panel) depends on the size of a district’s black population. Across the three decades for the given election periods, it is clear that black legislators are elected with smaller black populations in the Rim South relative to the Deep South.  In 1993-1995, for example, the probability that a Deep South district elects a black lawmaker reaches 0.5 (even odds) when the black population is between 54 and 55 percent. In that same period, the probability a district in the Rim South elects a black legislator reaches 0.5 when the black population is between 49 and 50 percent. This 5 percentage-point difference nearly doubles in 2003-2005 (52 to 53 percent for the Deep South versus 43 to 44 percent for the Rim South) and in 2013-2015 (48 to 49 percent for the Deep South versus 40 to 41 percent for the Rim South).

Beyond the pressing normative views regarding the broader political and representational implications of the relationship between majority-minority districts and black representation, our empirical analysis indicates an inexorable dynamic in party politics. Our findings leave no doubt that a considerable reduction in majority-minority state legislative district populations can be accomplished while ensuring black descriptive representation. In light of the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County v. Holder, which scrapped the federal enforcement of the Section 5 preclearance provision of the Voting Rights Act, we expect in the next decennial round of redistricting most Democrats will push for a reduction in the size of minority populations in majority-minority districts, while almost every Republican will continue to insist that majority-black districts should remain as is, or better yet, contain even higher African-American populations.

Ahead of Election Day, 2.56m Democrats have cast ballots, 2.47m Republicans have cast ballots, 1.24m No Party Affiliates have cast ballots, and 154k voters registered with 3rd Parties have cast ballots.

3.52m women and 2.76m men have voted, with another 139k votes cast by voters whose gender is not reported.

And by race/ethnicity, 4.23m whites, 980k Hispanics, 841k blacks, and 375k voters of mixed, other or unknown race have cast ballots.

By gender, what follows are tables with the share of votes cast across party registration for each racial/ethnic group.

Percent of Early Votes Cast by Women
Other Black Hispanic White Total
Dem 43.9 88.2 43.2 34.2 44.1
Rep 23.4 2.2 27.4 47.2 36.2
NPA 30.9 9.0 28.2 16.1 17.7
3rd 1.8 0.7 1.3 2.6 2.0
Total 100 100 100 100 100
Percent of Early Votes Cast by Men
Other Black Hispanic White Total
Dem 37.0 81.4 38.1 26.3 34.6
Rep 25.8 4.0 31.0 51.8 42.2
NPA 34.8 13.1 29.2 18.5 20.3
3rd 2.4 1.5 1.7 3.4 2.9

fl-2012-eip-ballots-cast-by-party-by-racefl-2012-eip-ballots-cast-by-party-by-race-daily

fl-2012-absentee-ballots-received-by-race-by-day

Here’s the racial/ethnic breakdown by party for the first day of early in-person voting in Florida.

Of the 8,377 Democrats who have cast EIP, 52% are white, 31% are black, and 13% are Hispanic.  Some 1,666 Democrats in Hillsborough County have cast EIP ballots, 57% of them white, 29% of them black, and 10% Hispanic. In Miami-Dade, whites have cast 37% of the EIP Democratic ballots, blacks 34%, and Hispanics 26%. In Duval County, with 1,439 EIP Democratic ballots cast, blacks have cast 49% and whites 45%. And finally, in Orange County, 47% of the EIP Democratic ballots cast thus far are white voters, 28% are black, and 18% are Hispanic.

Among Republicans, of the 9,354 Republicans who have cast EIP, 81% are white, 1% are black, and 15% are Hispanic. In Miami-Dade, where Republicans have cast 1,543 EIP ballots, 68% have been cast by Hispanics, and only 28% by whites. In Hillsborough County, where the most EIP ballots have been cast by Republicans (1,757), 89% of the ballots cast thus far are by whites. White Republicans casting EIP votes in Duval make up an even greater share of the 1,511 votes cast, some 94% of the total. In Orange County, 10% of the EIP votes by Republicans were by Hispanic voters, with white voters comprising 85% of the total (1,385) EIP votes cast on the first day of early voting.

There was a slight uptick in the number of active registered voters in Florida immediately prior to the registration deadline to be eligible for the March 15 primary. From January 31 through February 16, 2016, the voter rolls grew by 62,318 voters. Certainly the number of newly registered voters was higher than 62k, given that the voter rolls are dynamic; Supervisors of Elections regularly remove voters from the rolls, including those who are deceased, move out of state, or are convicted of felonies. Under federal law (NVRA), SOEs should not be removing inactive voters during this period of time, given the immediacy of the March 15 presidential primary.

Is the increase in total registrations distributed evenly across racial and ethnic groups? No.

Hispanics now comprise 14.88% of the electorate, up .04% from the percentage of Hispanics in the January 31, 2016 active voter file. On the other hand, blacks now comprise 13.31% of the active voters, down from 13.34% of the January 31 active electorate. The percentage of the Florida electorate that is whites is also down, from 65.74% to 65.71% of the electorate.

These are pretty steep changes for just a 15 day window of new voter registrations, and likely reflects broader demographic changes in the state (more younger Hispanics eligible to register to vote) and general attrition rates from the voter file of white and black registered voters who have been removed from the statewide voter file.

What about these last-minute changes across the parties? Some interesting patterns emerge.

Registrants (with the possible exception of Jeb Bush) are generally not likely to change their racial or ethnic categorization on a voter registration form. But current registrants might very well might change their party registration ahead of a closed primary contest if they plan on voting.  This is especially true of No Party Affiliates (NPAs), who are excluded from voting in party primaries in Florida.

This very well might explain the drop in total NPA registrations in Florida over the two week period prior to the February 16 registration cutoff, from 2.892m to 2.878m active NPA voters. The decline of 13.6k registered voters is not Huuuuge in the grand scheme of things, but it is significant, given the general trend in the Sunshine State of more voters registering as NPAs over the past two decades.

It bears noting that nearly all of the decline in NPA registered voters appears to be due to the decline in white NPAs; the total number of registered Hispanic NPAs, and even black NPAs, increased over the two-week period.

Although there is certainly the possibility of an ecological fallacy at play when interpreting these aggregate numbers as a sign of NPAs engaged in last-minute party-switching, there was an uptick in the number of Republican active registered voters, nearly 50k from January 31 through February 16, to 4.276m. Democrats also increased their rolls, but less by than 30k, to 4.570m for the Presidential Preference Primary book closing.

In light of several news articles that have reported the findings of a recent joint NCSL & PEW Report, “Who We Elect: The Demographics of State Legislatures,” I thought it might be useful to convey some points made by Dr. Carl Klarner regarding the inherent problem when comparing “average” state legislative racial and ethnic (and other socio-demographic data) with national averages.  As Klarner writes in his recent Report (p6),

“state level figures [should] always [be] weighted by state population when being averaged to the nation level. This is done to approximate the importance of a particular state legislative chamber….
The issue of weighting by population is especially relevant to assessing minority representation, as it makes a big difference. Reports of minority state legislators frequently state them as a percentage of all legislators in the country.17  It is also sometimes asserted that descriptive representation is lower in state legislatures than in the U.S. House. But it is important to take the varying size of state legislative districts into account. For example, there are currently 498 African-American state house members, or 9.2% of the 5,411 state house members in the United States. But African-American state house members actually represent 11.9% of the United States, if you factor in the size of the districts they represent. This is substantially closer to the 13.7% of the United States that is African-American.18  The simple reason for this is that Northeastern states, with unusually large state houses, have few African-Americans living in them. Looking at minority descriptive representation in this way gives us more insight into what types of electoral arrangements are conducive to the fair representation of racial minorities.”

I agree with Dr. Klarner. Weighting state legislators by population is essential when comparing national averages with minority representation across the 99 state legislative chambers.

According to the 2010-2014 5-year averages of the American Community Survey (ACS), conducted by the U.S. Census, African-Americans make up approximately 13.7% of the national population, Hispanics 16.9%, and Asians 5.9%.

According to Dr. Klarner, here are the percentages of current state legislators who are racial/ethnic minorities, unweighted v. weighted:

State House Members                   Unweighted                Weighted

  • African-American:                       9.2%                             11.9%
  • Latino                                           4.0%                               8.5%
  • Asians                                          1.5%                              2.3%

 

State Senators                                Unweighted                Weighted

  • African-American:                         8.3%                             10.1%
  • Latino                                           3.6%                               6.9%
  • Asians                                          1.7%                              1.9%

 

More later…

 

Michael Herron and I have posted this draft for the March symposium on voting rights for the Florida State University Law Review.

Here is the abstract:

Shortly after the Supreme Court in Shelby County v. Holder struck down Section 4(b) of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), the state of North Carolina enacted an omnibus piece of election-reform legislation known as the Voter Information Verification Act (VIVA). Prior to Shelby portions of North Carolina were covered jurisdictions per the VRA’s Sections 4 and 5—meaning that they had to seek federal preclearance for changes to their election procedures—and this motivates our assessment of whether VIVA’s many alterations to North Carolina’s election procedures are race-neutral. We show that in presidential elections in North Carolina black early voters have cast their ballots disproportionately in the first week of early voting, which was eliminated by VIVA; that blacks disproportionately have registered to vote during early voting and in the immediate run-up to Election Day, something VIVA now prohibits; that registered voters in the state who lack two VIVA-acceptable forms of voter identification, driver’s licenses and non-operator identification cards, are disproportionately black; that VIVA’s identification dispensation for voters at least 70 years disproportionately benefits white registered voters; and, that preregistered sixteen and seventeen year old voters in North Carolina, a category of registrants that VIVA prohibits, are disproportionately black. These results illustrate how VIVA will have a disparate effect on black voters in North Carolina.

William D. Hicks, Seth C. McKee, Mitchell D. Sellers, and Daniel A. Smith
Forthcoming in Political Research Quarterly.
Available here.
Abstract
We undertake a comprehensive examination of restrictive voter ID legislation in the American states from 2001 through 2012. With a dataset containing approximately one thousand introduced and nearly one hundred adopted voter ID laws, we evaluate the likelihood that a state legislature introduces a restrictive voter ID bill, as well as the likelihood that a state government adopts such a law. Voter ID laws have evolved from a valence issue into a partisan battle, where Republicans defend them as a safeguard against fraud while Democrats indict them as a mechanism of voter suppression. However, voter ID legislation is not uniform across the states; not all Republican-controlled legislatures have pushed for more restrictive voter ID laws. Instead, our findings show it is a combination of partisan control and the electoral context that drives enactment of such measures. While the prevalence of Republican lawmakers strongly and positively influences the adoption of voter ID laws in electorally competitive states, its effect is significantly weaker in electorally uncompetitive states. Republicans preside over an electoral coalition that is declining in size; where elections are competitive, the furtherance of restrictive voter ID laws is a means of maintaining Republican support while curtailing Democratic electoral gains.

Race, Party, and the Consequences of Restricting Early Voting in Florida in the 2012 General Election

Political Research Quarterly

Michael C. Herron and Daniel A. Smith

Abstract

In mid-2011, the Florida legislature reduced the state’s early voting period from fourteen days to eight and eliminated the final Sunday of early voting. We compare observed voting patterns in 2012 with those in the 2008 General Election and find that racial/ethnic minorities, registered Democrats, and those without party affiliation had significant early voting participation drops and that voters who cast ballots on the final Sunday in 2008 were disproportionately unlikely to cast a valid ballot in 2012. Florida’s decision to truncate early voting may have diminished participation rates of those already least likely to vote.

OnlineFirst: February 24, 2014

Available: Full Text (PDF)

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