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Have majority-minority districts fulfilled the promise of the Voting Rights Act?

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Title
Have majority-minority districts fulfilled the promise of the Voting Rights Act?
Name (type = personal)
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Lesher
NamePart (type = given)
John C.
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1943-
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John C. Lesher
Role
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author
Name (type = personal)
NamePart (type = family)
Baker
NamePart (type = given)
Ross K.
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Ross K. Baker
Affiliation
Advisory Committee
Role
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chair
Name (type = corporate)
NamePart
Rutgers University
Role
RoleTerm (authority = RULIB)
degree grantor
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Graduate School - New Brunswick
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school
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Text
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theses
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DateCreated (qualifier = exact)
2017
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2017-05
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2017
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xx
Language
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eng
Abstract (type = abstract)
The response of Southern states to the Fifteenth Amendment’s grant of voting rights to former slaves was nearly a century of self-serving interpretations of the Fifteenth Amendment that resulted in “voter dilution”—the de facto disenfranchisement of Blacks throughout the former Confederacy. This dissertation will examine the relative success or failure of the remedies for vote dilution embodied in the 1965 Voting Rights Act (VRA), in particular the concept of the “majority-minority” congressional district. In 1965, the nascent legislation had as its primary emphasis the elimination of impediments to voting registration, particularly impediments designed to restrict registration by African-Americans. Since the mid-1980s Justice Department policy has recognized that voting registration rates among minorities have risen to levels roughly equivalent to those of whites, but that minority seating in state and federal legislatures has not seen proportionate gains. To correct this perceived imbalance, the Department of Justice has aggressively promoted the VRA enforcement policy known as “majority-minority redistricting.” Majority-minority redistricting refers to the insistence by the Department of Justice that every state, during the decennial redistricting exercises that follow each census, create as many districts as possible which contain a resident population of 50 % or more minorities. After the 2010 census, 25 states had sufficient concentrations of minority residents to form a total of 107 such districts. This policy of “maximization” of the number of majority-minority districts was justified by the Justice Department’s civil rights attorneys by four assumptions that became a primary rationale for VRA enforcement: (1) such districts will increase rates of electoral participation by minorities; (2) minority candidates need minority voters to achieve electoral success because whites vote en bloc and frustrate minority electoral chances; (3) minority candidates will emerge to run in such districts; (4) increased candidate emergence will promote competition for office. Electoral data was compiled and tests were performed that demonstrate that the four assumptions presented by the Department of Justice for the maximization of majority-minority districts must be rejected. What is demonstrated is that these policies waste votes, unintentionally distort electoral outcomes and fail to advance minority electoral opportunity to the extent contemplated by VRA adherents. In addition to the tests on the four assumptions of the Department of Justice, comparative tests were made on electoral results subsequent to redistricting accomplished by either a state legislature or by a non-politician, independent commission. It will be demonstrated that districts formed by commissions, when compared to districts formed by politicians concerned with incumbency and party dominance, show higher rates of voting, more competition for office, higher turnover of seats to new officials and higher rates of minority electability. This dissertation does not call for the abolition of the concept of the majority-minority district, or for any part of the VRA. What is suggested is that the Justice Department (1) should actively and forcefully advocate the adoption by the states of fully independent redistricting commissions and (2) reconsider its demand for an “at-all-times” policy of maximization. That policy has limited merit, and it must be selectively administered for optimal effect. A prescriptive addendum with recommendations for future VRA policy follows the conclusions of the dissertation.
Subject (authority = RUETD)
Topic
Political Science
Subject (authority = ETD-LCSH)
Topic
Voting Rights Act of 1965 (United States)
Subject (authority = ETD-LCSH)
Topic
Suffrage
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Title
Rutgers University Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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ETD_7934
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electronic resource
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text/xml
Extent
1 online resource (v, 278 p. : ill.)
Note (type = degree)
Ph.D.
Note (type = bibliography)
Includes bibliographical references
Note (type = statement of responsibility)
by John C. Lesher
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Title
Graduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
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rucore19991600001
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Identifier (type = doi)
doi:10.7282/T39C719S
Genre (authority = ExL-Esploro)
ETD doctoral
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The author owns the copyright to this work.
RightsHolder (type = personal)
Name
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Lesher
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John
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C.
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Permission or license
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2017-04-04 16:40:15
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john lesher
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Rutgers University. Graduate School - New Brunswick
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Author Agreement License
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I hereby grant to the Rutgers University Libraries and to my school the non-exclusive right to archive, reproduce and distribute my thesis or dissertation, in whole or in part, and/or my abstract, in whole or in part, in and from an electronic format, subject to the release date subsequently stipulated in this submittal form and approved by my school. I represent and stipulate that the thesis or dissertation and its abstract are my original work, that they do not infringe or violate any rights of others, and that I make these grants as the sole owner of the rights to my thesis or dissertation and its abstract. I represent that I have obtained written permissions, when necessary, from the owner(s) of each third party copyrighted matter to be included in my thesis or dissertation and will supply copies of such upon request by my school. I acknowledge that RU ETD and my school will not distribute my thesis or dissertation or its abstract if, in their reasonable judgment, they believe all such rights have not been secured. I acknowledge that I retain ownership rights to the copyright of my work. I also retain the right to use all or part of this thesis or dissertation in future works, such as articles or books.
Copyright
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Copyright protected
Availability
Status
Open
Reason
Permission or license
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