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.

Race, Shelby County, and the Voter Information Verification Act in North Carolina

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.

Herron & Smith: “Race, Party, and the Consequences of Restricting Early Voting in Florida in the 2012 General Election”

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)