How Much Is Enough and How Much Is Too Much? Measuring Minority Political Strength for Political Redistricting Purposes

Shelley Lapkoff, Lapkoff & Gobalet Demographic Research, Inc.
Jeanne Gobalet, Lapkoff & Gobalet Demographic Research, Inc.

The Federal Voting Rights Act (FVRA) provides important legal criteria to follow when adjusting election district boundaries at the local level. A key criterion is that districts should be constructed to empower protected minority group members to elect representatives of their choice. Simultaneously, the FVRA prohibits “packing” of protected minorities – that is putting too many minority group members into one district, thereby diminishing the minority group’s influence in neighboring election districts. It has fallen on demographers to determine just how strong election districts need to be in order to walk the FVRA’s fine line between “enough” and “too much” minority voting power. This paper evaluates six different measures of minority voting power. It shows how to construct these measures and how they were used in one case study in Monterey, California, where a 2010-2011 redistricting effort for Monterey County supervisors posed a philosophical and technical challenge for demographers.

  See paper

Presented in Session 36: Demographic Issues in Redistricting