Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Majority-Minority Voting Districts and Their Role in Politics

Do two rights ever make a wrong? When it comes to two important aspects of voting rights, the answer may be yes.

The first is the use of majority-minority districts. These are political districts in which members of a racial minority make up an effective voting majority. This gives them the ability to participate and elect representatives of their own choosing, and has been the solution of choice in situations where there is, or could be, racial vote dilution.

But majority-minority districts give rise to a dynamic that undercuts the very goal they are designed to achieve. While they improve the ability of minority voters to elect a candidate of their choice in a particular district, they also cost their preferred political party other valuable seats in the legislature.

This, however, is less the fault of the majority-minority districts than of the second aspect of voting rights: the strict application of the one person, one vote standard.

Majority-minority districts have at least one very curious effect: they help Republicans. This is curious because minority voters, especially blacks, vote for Democrats in overwhelming numbers.

The theory goes like this. When creating a majority-minority political district, the additional minority voters must come from somewhere. That somewhere is adjoining districts, which are drained of their minority voters. Those voters, though, are not merely minority voters-they are also reliably Democratic voters. And this makes it more likely that the Republican candidates will prevail in those adjoining districts.

Would this actually happen in practice? It's well-documented that it already has. Now, after the 1990 census, scores of majority-minority districts were created in order to comply with the mandates of the Voting Rights Act. For example, thirteen additional majority-black Congressional districts were created. They, in turn, produced thirteen additional black representatives. Majority-minority districting did, indeed, lead to the election of the candidates of the minorities' choosing.

Unfortunately, a large number of studies of the 1992 and 1994 Congressional elections revealed that this additional representation came at a cost. As a result of majority-minority districting, Democrats lost at least ten seats to Republicans. When minority voters were drained out of adjoining districts, Republican majorities were the result.

Both parties apparently notice that majority-minority districts tend to help Republicans overall, and hurt Democrats overall. In the early 1990s, the Republican National Committee pushed for the creation of more black and Hispanic districts as part of a strategy to win additional seats in the House. And in states like here in Georgia, Democrats sought to reduce the number of safe minority districts in order to improve the party's chances overall. In doing so, both parties were acting contrary to their general positions on race-conscious lawmaking.

Minority voting rights advocates, then, was faced with a choice between pushing districting plans that increase the number of minority representatives and those that increase the number of Democratic representatives. This is a real dilemma, since, of the two major parties, Democrats are generally more sympathetic to minority interests (hence the overwhelming support).

And this raises several important questions. First, we've seen that, as a result of majority-minority districting, minority voters ,who overwhelming vote Democratic, end up with fewer Democratic Congressmen & women.

But remember, the key to fulfilling the mandates of the Voting Rights Act involves ensuring effective minority participation. Democrats would be helped but would they be helped unfairly?

I think the answer is a clear no! Given that most minority groups overwhelmingly support Democrats, it makes some sense that if minorities' ability to participate truly does improve, Democrats would benefit. At least it makes more sense than what's currently happening.

What does all of this mean for this and future elections? Well, given the margins enjoyed by Republicans in Congress and many state legislatures, it reminds us that some of those Republican victories may be a result of majority-minority districting, not any genuine change in the country's political views.

To see what I'm talking about, just keep an eye on the 2nd Congressional District, as well as the 8th Congressional District where Republicans would probably look one of their own, Austin Scott by making the 2nd more democratic friendly by packing more African-American Voters into Bishop's District, while making Scott's 8th more white & republican. This is called Gerrymandering & this has hurt democrats more than it has hurt republicans, on the congressional & local level as well.

No comments:

This is a Rural Blog that provides views & insights from a Conservative Georgia Democrat

Blog Archive