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The Voting Rights Act, Shelby County, and Redistricting: Improving Estimates of Racially Polarized Voting in a Multiple-Election Context


Kimble, Jaclyn (2015) The Voting Rights Act, Shelby County, and Redistricting: Improving Estimates of Racially Polarized Voting in a Multiple-Election Context. Dissertation (Ph.D.), California Institute of Technology. doi:10.7907/Z9S75D86.


The Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County has severely limited the power of the Voting Rights Act. I argue that Congressional attempts to pass a new coverage formula are unlikely to gain the necessary Republican support. Instead, I propose a new strategy that takes a “carrot and stick” approach. As the stick, I suggest amending Section 3 to eliminate the need to prove that discrimination was intentional. For the carrot, I envision a competitive grant program similar to the highly successful Race to the Top education grants. I argue that this plan could pass the currently divided Congress.

Without Congressional action, Section 2 is more important than ever before. A successful Section 2 suit requires evidence that voting in the jurisdiction is racially polarized. Accurately and objectively assessing the level of polarization has been and continues to be a challenge for experts. Existing ecological inference methods require estimating polarization levels in individual elections. This is a problem because the Courts want to see a history of polarization across elections.

I propose a new 2-step method to estimate racially polarized voting in a multi-election context. The procedure builds upon the Rosen, Jiang, King, and Tanner (2001) multinomial-Dirichlet model. After obtaining election-specific estimates, I suggest regressing those results on election-specific variables, namely candidate quality, incumbency, and ethnicity of the minority candidate of choice. This allows researchers to estimate the baseline level of support for candidates of choice and test whether the ethnicity of the candidates affected how voters cast their ballots.

Item Type:Thesis (Dissertation (Ph.D.))
Subject Keywords:Redistricting; Voting Rights Act; Racially Polarized Voting
Degree Grantor:California Institute of Technology
Division:Humanities and Social Sciences
Major Option:Social Science
Thesis Availability:Public (worldwide access)
Research Advisor(s):
  • Alvarez, R. Michael
Thesis Committee:
  • Alvarez, R. Michael (chair)
  • Katz, Jonathan N.
  • Agranov, Marina
  • Kiewiet, D. Roderick
Defense Date:9 May 2013
Record Number:CaltechTHESIS:12152014-105910005
Persistent URL:
Default Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:8741
Deposited By: Jaclyn Kimble
Deposited On:04 Feb 2015 22:38
Last Modified:04 Jun 2024 21:39

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