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Shaw vs. Reno and the World of Redistricting and Representation

Kousser, J. Morgan (1995) Shaw vs. Reno and the World of Redistricting and Representation. Social Science Working Paper, 915. California Institute of Technology , Pasadena, CA. (Unpublished)

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Justice O ' Connor's majority opinion in the 1993U.S. Supreme Court case of Shaw v. Reno has widely been seen as withdrawing judicial protection of minority voting rights -- a welcome development to those who believe as a matter of faith that discriminatory electoral rules, racist appeals in elections, and racially polarized voting are things of the distant past, but less hopeful to close students of redistricting and election campaigns of the last two decades. Deeply ambiguous, the opinion has spawned a wide range of interpretations, from assertions that it bans redistricters from taking the race of voters into account at all, even when they place them in majority-white districts, to contentions that it merely asks for further information about the basis for establishing certain "ugly" districts that have majorities of African Americans or Latinos. In this paper, which is based on research that I carried out for Shaw v. Hunt, the remand version of Shaw v. Reno, and Vera v. Richards, its Texas counterpart, I try to restore a sense of reality to the often factually incorrect assertions or implications of Justice O'Connor's opinion, not only by a close textual reading of the briefs and opinions in the Supreme Court case, but also by looking in considerable detail at the actual redistricting processes in North Carolina and Texas during the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. Were race, partisanship, and individual politicians' interests taken into account in redrawing districts before 1991, or were all previous reapportionments pristine exercises in civic virtue? Might the states in the 1990s have had compelling interests in redressing past racially discriminatory practices? Were the motives of the 1991-92redistrictings so uncomplicated that they can be easily and unambiguously determined by a quick glance at a map? For North Carolina, I also examine whether white and black public opinion and the voting records of white and black members of Congress differ systematically from each other. Do black voters need black faces to represent them? Shaw's vagueness affords the Supreme Court the possibility of gracefully backing away from its separate but unequal standards, standards that allow whites standing to sue without having to prove that the electoral rules at issue have a racially discriminatory effect and without having to show in detail that they were adopted with a racially discriminatory intent. In the final section, I outline five escape routes from Shaw, all of which are based on its factual inadequacies.

Item Type:Report or Paper (Working Paper)
Group:Social Science Working Papers
Series Name:Social Science Working Paper
Issue or Number:915
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20170818-152333397
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Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:80632
Deposited By: Jacquelyn Bussone
Deposited On:21 Aug 2017 16:40
Last Modified:03 Oct 2019 18:33

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