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5 - Racial Geography, the Voting Rights Act, and Bias

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 July 2021

Alex Keena
Affiliation:
Virginia Commonwealth University
Michael Latner
Affiliation:
California Polytechnic State University
Anthony J. McGann McGann
Affiliation:
University of Strathclyde
Charles Anthony Smith
Affiliation:
University of California, Irvine
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Summary

We investigate the impact of Voting Rights Act reforms that have required states to draw “majority-minority” districts and to abandon the use of multimember state legislative districts. Have these changes led to more bias in districting, as is often claimed? Our findings show that Republican bias is not an unavoidable outcome of minority districting. When Republicans are in charge, we often find more bias in states with large and geographically segregated Black and Latinx populations. In this regard, Republican gerrymanderers appear to use majority-minority districting as a tool for creating partisan advantage. But we do not see the same outcomes when Democrats, both parties, or independent actors are in charge. We also find that among the handful of states that still use multimember districts to elect state legislators, the average district magnitude in a state legislature imposes a ceiling on the level of bias achievable. However, when partisans are not in charge, multimember districts do not appear to limit partisan bias. Once again, the key variable in predicting the occurrence of bias in districting is whether or not one party controlled redistricting.

Type
Chapter
Information
Gerrymandering the States
Partisanship, Race, and the Transformation of American Federalism
, pp. 96 - 116
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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