In case you missed opinion pieces (@NYDailyNews and @MonkeyCage) on the right not to vote and the pernicious effects of purging infrequent voters, links here:

NY Daily News: Do we have a right not to vote? The Supreme Court suggests we don’t

The Washington Post: If more states start using Ohio’s system, how many voters will be purged?

Oh, and if you want to hear a fun account of how we took a successful stab at partisan gerrymandering in Florida, have a listen to this @PlanetMoney podcast.

SCOTUS hearing VA & NC Gerrymandering cases today. Suffice to say, Racial Gerrymandering in Deep South states is even worse

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.

Assessing the Potential Impact of Evenwel v. Abbott

Dr. Carl Klarner has posted “Assessing the Potential Impact of Evenwel v. Abbott” on SSRN.  I look forward to contributing more to this important preliminary analysis of the representational impact of the Evenwel v. Abbott case that SCOTUS hears tomorrow morning, weighing the “one-person, one-vote” principle under the Equal Protection Clause.  Klarner’s analysis shows the potential impact on representation when instead of total population, districts are apportioned based on the number of citizens who live in state and congressional legislative jurisdictions, or, even more narrowly, when districts are apportioned based only on the number of citizens over the age of 18 (CVAP).  His empirical analysis goes beyond recent analyses conducted by Michael Li & Eric Petry at the Brennan Center and by Andrew A. Beveridge, Professor of Sociology at Queens College.  In this iteration, Klarner “assesses the potential impact of such a ruling on the political power of African-Americans, Latinos, individuals residing in poverty, as well as the extent of the electoral advantages a ruling might provide to the Republican Party.” The findings are stark.

Here’s the Abstract:

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear Evenwel v. Abbott on December 8, 2015. If the high Court rules in favor of the plaintiffs, redistricting across the country will be accomplished by nearly equalizing the number of people eligible to vote in a jurisdiction instead of the current standard of nearly equalizing the total population of legislative districts. This analysis assesses the potential impact of such a ruling on the political power of African-Americans, Latinos, individuals residing in poverty, as well as the extent of the electoral advantages a ruling might provide to the Republican Party. It draws on Census data first available on December 3, 2015 and a database of all state legislative elections from 1968 to 2015. It finds that drawing districts on the basis of citizens of voting age would reduce the power of Democratic state legislators by 1.4% in state houses, 1.2% in state senates, and 1.1% in the U.S. House. The representation of Latino state house members would go from 8.4 to 7.4%, 6.7 to 5.8% in state senates, and 6.7 to 5.8% for the U.S. House as well.

 

SCOTUS, the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, and Direct Democracy in the American States

There seems to be some confusion with respect to the adoption of direct democracy in Arizona as it relates to the March 2, 2015 U.S. Supreme Court oral arguments of Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission.

In 1911, citizens of what would become the state of Arizona were not only very supportive of the initiative and referendum processes, they also supported the recall of judges.  In February, 1911, Arizonians ratified a state constitution with the initiative, referendum, and recall, with nearly 80% approval.  President Taft, however, was no such fan, and in August 1911 he vetoed legislation to make AZ a state because of the judicial recall provision in the AZ constitution.  The judicial recall was subsequently removed by the territorial legislature from the draft constitution. Arizonians ratified the revised state constitution in December 1911, without the recall, with nearly 90% approval at the polls.   Taft approved legislation in February 1912 creating Arizona as the 48th state. The new constitution included both the initiative and referendum.

In 1912, Arizonians amended Section 1, Article 8 of their state constitution, when they adopted a legislative referendum “extending the recall to all public officers of the State holding an elective office, either by election or appointment.”  In that election, men also adopted by a two to one margin a citizen initiative granting women suffrage.

As I mentioned in a post yesterday, the citizen initiative has been used by citizens to adopt numerous election and ethics reforms across the states for more than a century.  Indeed, the first statewide initiative was in 1904, when voters in Oregon overwhelmingly (three to one) adopted a direct primary nominating convention law.

More on the history of the referral by state legislatures and the subsequent adoption of the initiative by citizens during the Progressive Era can be found in my 2008 APSR article, available here.  More on the use of the initiative to adopt statewide election and ethics reforms can be found in my chapter in Bruce Cain, Todd Donovan, and Caroline Tolbert’s 2008 edited volume, Democracy in the States, here