The Role of Section 2 - Majority Minority Districts
Are states permitted to create new majority- minority districts?
States are permitted and sometimes required to create new majority-minority districts under the Voting Rights Act to avoid diluting minority voting strength during redistricting. States with significant minority population growth over the course of the last decade, for instance, may need to create new majority-minority districts to ensure that redistricting plans comply with the requirements of Section 2 of the Act. Plans that dilute minority voting strength by failing to create feasible majority-minority districts may be quickly challenged following adoption. Since Section 2 litigation can be both costly and time- consuming, officials in many states set out to draw plans that fairly reflect minority voting strength at the beginning of the redistricting process. The need to comply with Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act to avoid minority vote dilution can serve as a compelling justification for both preserving and creating new majority-minority districts, which helps protect these districts from constitutional attack.
How can I make the case for the creation of new majority-minority districts in my state?
It is important that information proving the need for the creation of a particular majority-minority district is included in the legislative or redistricting record developed by map drawers, legislators, and community participants. The information can take the form of public hearing testimonials, studies, reports, articles, expert analyses or any other information acceptable to redistricting officials. This information is important in showing that unless a majority-minority district is created, the minority group in question will have less opportunity than other voters to participate in the political process and elect their candidate of choice. This information could include the following:
- Maps demonstrating that reasonably compact majority- minority districts can be drawn.
- An examination of whether voting is racially polarized in your community. You can evaluate racial polarization voting patterns by interviewing community members and candidates who have run for office in your area and through an analysis of election returns. To establish racially polarized voting, you must determine whether minority voters tend to vote for the same particular candidates (minority voters are cohesive) and if white voters tend to vote against the candidate whom minority voters tend to choose (white bloc voting against minority candidates of choice). A political scientist can help you analyze the data and evidence to evaluate racially polarized voting patterns.
- An assessment of the extent to which minority candidates are excluded from nominating processes such as private meetings or caucuses or other processes for placing candidates on ballots.
- An assessment of the history of discrimination in your community and in the state related to voting, including poll taxes, literacy tests, and similar barriers. You should also include any current, ongoing barriers or limitations placed on minority voters’ ability to cast ballots in your community, such as the accessibility of polling places to minority voters and the availability of language translation and other assistance at the polls.
- A list of the electoral practices that have been shown to have a discriminatory impact on the ability of minority voters to cast an effective vote and that are used in the jurisdiction, including majority-vote requirements and restrictions against single-shot voting.
- An assessment of the history of discrimination in your community and in the state against minorities in areas such as education, employment, and health. You should also include any current, ongoing discrimination in these areas.
- An assessment of the social and economic disparities between minorities and non-minorities in your community and the state in areas such as education, employment, and health.
- Examples of overt or subtle appeals or references to race that have been made in relatively recent elections, such as a reference to a minority candidate’s racial background or the inclusion of a photograph of a minority candidate in his/her opponent’s advertising. Such examples are usually found in newspaper accounts of elections and in the candidate advertising.
- A record of the electoral successes and losses suffered by candidates of choice of minority voters and how many of these successes and losses occurred when the minority candidates ran in a majority-minority district.
- Any lack of responsiveness of the governing body being redistricted, such as the city council or county commission, to the needs of the minority community.
- An assessment of how tenuous a jurisdiction’s policy reason may be for not creating majority-minority districts.