Sword, Shield, and Compass: The Uses and Misuses of Racially Polarized Voting Studies in Voting Rights Enforcement

Kareem U. Crayton, Sword, Shield, and Compass: The Uses and Misuses of Racially Polarized Voting Studies in Voting Rights Enforcement, 64 Rutgers L. Rev. 973 (2012).

Abstract:  This article addresses the multiple functions of racially polarized voting (RPV) studies, an essential element of voting rights enforcement. This type of social science analysis figures into the doctrine of voting rights in several ways, but not all of its different roles have been fully appreciated or utilized by scholars, policymakers, or the courts. In fact, several recent illustrations show that this information has been misused. By developing the three distinct functions for RPV, this article demonstrates that only its traditional function as affirmative evidence of racial discrimination has been fully advanced in the discourse. By comparison, the “shield” and “compass” uses of RPV (which, respectively, refer to a preemptive review of a jurisdiction’s exposure to legal claims of vote dilution and the assessment of changes in the geographic scope and depth of racially-biased voting patterns) demand greater attention. The article concludes by offering several practical recommendations for actors to improve efforts to utilize these two other functions of RPV.

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