Latest Research: “Revisiting Majority-Minority Districts and Black Representation” in PRQ

HKMS 2017 PRQ Abstract

Available here

And here’s the key figure:

HKMS 2017 PRQ Table 4

“Figure 4 plots the probability a district elects a black lawmaker in the Deep South (left panel) versus the Rim South (right panel) depending on the size of a district’s black population. This figure shows that, in each of the election periods we include, black legislators are elected with smaller black populations in the Rim South relative to the Deep South. This figure does not contain the same probability for districts in the Non-South because, as the coefficients imply, the differences are larger still. In 1993–1995, the probability that a district elects a black lawmaker reaches 0.5 (an even chance) when the black population is between 54 percent and 55 percent in the Deep South. In that same period, the probability a district elects a black legislator reaches 0.5 when the black population is between 49 percent and 50 percent in the Rim South. This 5 percentage-point difference nearly doubles n 2003–2005 (52% to 53% for the Deep South versus 43 percent to 44 percent for the Rim South) and in 2013–2015 (48% to 49% for the Deep South versus 40% to 41% for the Rim South).11 An additional trend this figure reveals is that, in each region, the threshold required to elect a black legislator declined between 1993–1995 and 2013–2015.”

The Sorry State of Representative Government in Florida

One-third of Florida Legislature faces no opposition at polls

Michael Van Sickler reports.

TALLAHASSEE — Millions of voters in Florida will get no vote in choosing who represents them in the Florida House and Senate next year. That’s because the deadline for candidates expired at noon Friday with no challengers qualifying to run against a third of the state Legislature.

The lack of opposition means candidates for eight state Senate seats — all incumbent Republicans — and 38 House seats, all but one an incumbent, automatically won their seats despite no ballots being cast in those districts. That will make 2014 even less competitive than 2012, when 24 percent of lawmakers ran unopposed.

More here.

RIP Derrick Bell, Critic of Direct Democracy

Derrick Bell, the first African American dean of a non-historically black school of law, and long-time professor at Harvard and NYU law schools, passed away yesterday at age 80.

In addition to pioneering “critical race theory,” Bell penned a seminal essay in 1978, on the dangers of direct democracy towards minorities.  Bell, in his Washington Law Review article, “The Referendum: Democracy’s Barrier to Racial Equality,” argued that ballot measures could perpetuate racial discrimination, increasingly so as racial barriers are simultaneously being lowered in representative democracy.  As such, the courts, Bell contended, should use heightened scrutiny assessing whether the civil rights of minorities are diminished via plebiscite.  Concerned with the populist tropes of some ballot measures, Bell warned, “Although the racial motivation is hidden, its effects are not; and the damage to minorities and to the integrity of a representative government can be as severe as that of the overtly racist laws existing in the country before 1954.”

For more empirical research on direct democracy and minority rights, see my review essay with Caroline Tolbert, as well as this article by Don Haider-Markel and his coauthors.